Epping’s basketball and netball clubs will have access to more indoor courts with a new stadium set to be built by Casa D’Abruzzo Club and Whittlesea council.
The four-court indoor stadium will be built by the Casa D’Abruzzo club by the end of 2021, with the council to contribute $5 million from its 2020-21 budget.
The partnership will guarantee community access to the courts for at least 20 years.
A report to last week’s council meeting stated it would cost council at least $15 million to build a similar stadium. The report noted there was no funding allocated to a stadium in the council’s budget for the next 10 years.
While the council said the stadium will boost access and participation in basketball and netball, concerns have been raised about the partnership between the council and Casa D’Abruzzo as the club houses 75 gaming machines.
A joint letter from Whittlesea Community Connections and the Hume Whittlesea Primary Care Partnership was presented to last week’s council meeting urging councillors to consider the harms posed by gaming machines and reject the partnership.
Cr Sam Alessi said the council had strongly advocated for the harm minimisation of poker machines but did not have a zero tolerance policy, adding the council accepted that gambling was legal.
He said the council already had partnerships and lease agreements with other gaming venues such as the Lalor Bowling Club, Epping RSL and Whittlesea Bowling Club. Cr Alessi said the partnership was a “great outcome”.
“[The stadium] is something that is lacking, especially in the eastern part of the established part of our municipality,” he said.
“We have 3000 people who get driven out of the municipality to play [basketball and netball]. Young people will have nowhere to go if we were not to take up this great opportunity.”
Cr Norm Kelly said he was “embarrassed” by the council’s decision, fearing people would use the club’s poker machines when dropping their kids off for matches.