Coffs Harbour does not have a dedicated athletics centre.
Coffs Harbour does not have a dedicated athletics centre.

Athletes stuck with ‘goat track’ as decision delayed

ATHLETES in Coffs Harbour will have to contend with “ankle-twisting ant hills” a little longer after plans to proceed with a purpose built athletics centre were delayed.

Local athletics community representative Nicola Johnston said the sport had waited a long time for a Regional Athletics Centre to be built and had been contending with a “complete lack” of facilities for years.

Currently sharing a partially marked “goat track” in Bray St with cricket, baseball, football, dog walkers and “millions of ants”, Ms Johnston said the site was littered with “ankle-twisting ant hills”.

Speaking to councillors ahead of a crucial vote on a future site for the RAC, Ms Johnston rejected the proposal for an interim grass track to be shared with Northern Storm FC at York St and said the sport could not grow without a dedicated facility.

A number of people would like the dedicated athletics centre built at the Coffs Coast Sport and Leisure Park. Photo: Tim Jarrett
A number of people would like the dedicated athletics centre built at the Coffs Coast Sport and Leisure Park. Photo: Tim Jarrett

Ms Johnston said the “most logical” site was at Bruce Barnier Oval, within the Coffs Coast Sport and Leisure Park, which had ample room and dedicated bus bays.

“(York St) is not a sensible planning decision as you are essentially fencing off to the public the entire green space in the highest density residential area in Coffs Harbour.”

While she urged councillors not to delay a decision, they voted unanimously to defer the item until a workshop could be held involving all key stakeholders.

Cr Keith Rhoades said the issue was a “complex matter to absorb” with a lot of “unanswered questions” and the workshop would give all users an opportunity to get their views across at the same time.

“(There are) so many conflicting scenarios – let's sit down, let's hear them all and put all possibilities on the table,” he said.

“I think after doing that we will find a lot of the clouds over this will disappear.

“Hopefully we will come away from that with an outcome that is best suited to the vast majority.”

North Coast Football general manager Andrew Woodward.
North Coast Football general manager Andrew Woodward.

The football community has also been pushing hard for the RAC to be contained at Bruce Barnier Oval, with concerns Northern Storm FC will be wedged out of their current home at York St before their planned move to Moonee can happen.

North Coast Football general manager Andrew Woodward said if council went ahead with plans to progress York St, in future years people would look back and ask “what the hell was the council of 2020 thinking”.

He said residents would be left wondering why it wasn’t built in a dedicated sports precinct and why a residential area “had a restricted piece of specialist sports infrastructure in it”.

He added that the limitations at Bruce Barnier Oval were not insurmountable.

“I worked for the Sydney Olympic Games – we built the Sydney International Aquatics Centre and Athletics Centre at a toxic waste dump at Homebush Bay.”

“I was there one day, we stuck a tester in the ground – it melted.”

“During the Olympic Games athletes trained on that.”

The meeting between councillors and key stakeholders, including all the current users of the facilities involved will occur in early 2021.