(From left) Whitsunday Sportspark vice-president Stephen Tween and chairman Justin Butler with project manager Michael Brady from Hutchinson Builders, councillor Jan Clifford, Mayor Andrew Willcox and Dawson MP George Christensen. The group is celebrating the first turning of the sod on the next phase of the Whitsunday Sportpark redevelopment. Photo: Elyse Wurm
(From left) Whitsunday Sportspark vice-president Stephen Tween and chairman Justin Butler with project manager Michael Brady from Hutchinson Builders, councillor Jan Clifford, Mayor Andrew Willcox and Dawson MP George Christensen. The group is celebrating the first turning of the sod on the next phase of the Whitsunday Sportpark redevelopment. Photo: Elyse Wurm

Relief as $8.4M project charges ahead after setbacks

THE persistence of an Airlie Beach sporting committee has helped a massive sport project continue charging ahead despite setbacks that meant it "came close to falling over".

The first sod was turned on Friday for the next phase of the Whitsunday Sportspark redevelopment, with the $8.4 million revamp including multiple changeroom facilities, a hospitality club with a bistro and bar, storage sheds and toilets.

Whitsunday Sportspark chairman Justin Butler said the committee was ready to start the next phase a year ago, but engineering issues threw a spanner in the works.

He was relieved to see the project was now ready for construction.

"It's been a long road for the people of Airlie Beach," Mr Butler said.

"The old changing rooms were knocked down in preparation for construction, but then we were hit with engineering delays so we had to go through a redesign process.

"It came close to falling over.

"It feels really good to be at the point where nothing can really go wrong."

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Stage one of the three-stage development was completed late last year, which included the installation of a second playing field and six LED light poles.

Mr Butler said the redevelopment would help grow Whitsunday sport and attract higher-profile matches in the future.

With the upgraded facilities, the park could also boost tourism by offering an attraction on weekends when there may not be other events on, he said.

"We don't need it to be an NRL team, it just needs to be a higher level to bring people in from Mackay and the coalfields," he said.

"The profits of the hospitality venue won't just go back into the five clubs that play here, they will be spread around the greater Whitsunday sporting community to benefit all local sports of all levels, so this really is a community club."

(From left) Mayor Andrew Willcox, Whitsunday Sportspark chairman Justin Butler, Whitsunday Sportspark committee member Craig Spence, project manager Michael Brady from Hutchinson Builders and councillor Jan Clifford.
(From left) Mayor Andrew Willcox, Whitsunday Sportspark chairman Justin Butler, Whitsunday Sportspark committee member Craig Spence, project manager Michael Brady from Hutchinson Builders and councillor Jan Clifford.

The park redevelopment was partly funded by the Federal Government, State Government, Whitsunday Regional Council, Whitsunday SportsPark and sporting clubs.

Hutchinson Builders will be responsible for constructing the new facilities.

Dawson MP George Christensen turned the first sod at the park on Friday, saying it had been a "long, long, long march" to that point in the project.

He congratulated Mr Butler and the Whitsunday Sportspark committee for their persistence.

"There are better clubs that would have thrown their hands up so it's a testament to the hard work of the committee," Mr Christensen said.

(From left) Whitsunday Sportspark vice-president Stephen Tween and chairman Justin Butler sign the development documents with project manager Michael Brady from Hutchinson Builders.
(From left) Whitsunday Sportspark vice-president Stephen Tween and chairman Justin Butler sign the development documents with project manager Michael Brady from Hutchinson Builders.

He said the community would reap huge reward from the vision of the board at Whitsunday Sportspark.

"This is a game changer for sports in the Whitsundays," Mr Christensen said.

"Here we have a sports precinct, which was run-down, battered by Cyclone Debbie and struggling to operate effectively.

"These guys have developed a plan, which not only enables them to generate a revenue stream to help run the sports clubs and maintain the facilities, but also create local jobs in construction and ongoing hospitality jobs. It's a win-win."

The first set of changing rooms will be completed by April 2021, with remaining changing rooms to be in use by October 2021 and the hospitality club to receive its big opening in early 2022.


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