Melbourne Victory football club has emerged from the shadows to publicly press its case for a proposed soccer academy at Footscray Park.
Hundreds of Maribyrnong residents have lodged submissions for and against the club’s plans to build three new floodlit pitches in the park, along with changerooms and undercover stadium seating for 600 spectators, in exchange for a 21-year lease.
The club on Monday released a video extolling the virtues of the project, promising it would provide a boost to junior and women’s soccer and “breathe new life into Footscray Park”.
Club chief executive Trent Jacobs told a public meeting held at Victoria University last Wednesday that the proposal would benefit the Maribyrnong community and the wider western suburbs.
Mr Jacobs told Star Weekly the club wanted the project to be viewed holistically as a community facility as well as sporting academy.
“We believe this site and this opportunity is going to bring so much for so many diverse parts of the community,” he said.
Mr Jacobs said the site was chosen due to its proximity to the club’s headquarters at AAMI Park and to Victoria University and other community partners.
He said the club opened dialogue with Maribyrnong council after the club sought expressions of interest for the academy in 2015.
“We then commenced a feasibility study on trying to understand whether or not the site was going to be suitable,” he said.
An online petition opposing the project has attracted close to 4800 signatures.
Opponents have raised concerns about the loss of public open space and potential issues with floodplain management, calling on the council to fund an upgrade of the park and keep it public.
Mr Jacobs said the community would maintain access to the pitches around the club’s requirements, which would vary across the year, and that Melbourne Water had provided in-principle support subject to further detail.
Maribyrnong council is scheduled to vote on the Melbourne Victory proposal on August 27.