Plans for a ski jump facility in Lismore.
Plans for a ski jump facility in Lismore. Contributed

EXCLUSIVE: Secret report shows why uni ditched ski jump

A LEAKED Southern Cross university document has revealed why the university is not pressing ahead with a proposal for 40m ski jump and sports precinct.

The controversial facility for elite athletes was knocked back by the community at Lennox Head, before landing on the Lismore City Council's agenda for a vote next month.

SCU's 55-page Lismore Sports Precinct Viability Assessment, issued October 2017, considered the opportunity to seek the establishment of a The Lismore Sports Hub on its Crawford Land parcel.

The precinct considered consisted of a multi-sport facility, an aerial ski jump and a sports administration centre, set within an 80 hectare parcel of land adjacent to the Lismore campus.

The study estimated precinct facilities would require a capital investment of up to $36m, an ongoing operational commitment of $4m p.a, $6.5m to activate the land, and $12.8 for a feasibility study, based on estimates for the Lennox Head facility.

The study assessed SCUs strategic alignments, the financial viability of the precinct, its benefit to all stakeholders, the financial risks, and other risks, such as 'community pushback'.

The study acknowledged the facility had "strong political support" and was aligned with the strategic interests of Office of Sports NSW, who were willing to invest $10.5m for capital works.

However, the university, mindful of its current re-brand and overall goals to improve its value proposition and financial position, was "wary of not committing to a "white elephant".

In particular, the university did not want to repeat its recent experience with the Southern Cross Football Centre, an "underutilised asset" which six years after being built was "still running at an operating deficit".

The study revealed Lismore City Council was 'broadly' supportive - and keen to move facilities such as the Lismore Memorial Baths out of flood areas, but was financially constrained and "provided little commitment towards enabling civil works to improve access to the site".

In regards to a water jump, ramp and pool, the study found a 'high certainty' in 'significant uplift' in demand for the facility by 'elite and sub-elite athletes', and there was a case to pursue an Olympic Winter Sports Training Centre.

But generally Lismore's community incremental participation at a sports hub was "expected to be low".

Up to 210 beds were needed to accommodate users of the aerial ski jump facility for athletes in aerial skiing, half pipe snowboarding and mogul skiing disciplines, with new education opportunities in sports and exercise science.

The study found the level of commitment from prospective precinct partners, including Ski and Snowboard Australia, was 'highly variable', with "no further understanding around" how the latter group's "demand of this facility by other winter sports athletes".

The study concluded that although potential benefits of the ski jump and sports hub were apparent, the precinct was not viewed as a "critical enabler of academic programs" and left questions "about how SCU can balance the opposing needs of elite athletes with those of the community".