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Newcastle Herald
Newcastle Herald
Michael Parris

'Foolish': Wallsend MP, cricket body oppose new basketball stadium location

Lambton High students playing on Wallarah Oval on Tuesday. Picture by Peter Lorimer

Wallsend MP Sonia Hornery and Newcastle District Cricket Association say the city's proposed new basketball stadium is in the wrong location and should not come at the expense of other sports.

NDCA chairman Aaron Gray said on Tuesday that building the stadium "on a grass field next to a stormwater canal in the middle of a residential area" did not make sense.

The Newcastle Herald reported on Saturday that Newcastle Basketball had lodged a scoping study with the state government for the new building on Wallarah and Blackley ovals opposite Hunter Stadium.

The land is owned by the NSW government and managed by City of Newcastle.

Ms Hornery, whose electorate takes in the stadium site, said she opposed the stadium location because it would rob Lambton High School and cricket and football clubs of a valuable asset.

"After discussing this issue with a variety of stakeholders, including Newcastle Basketball, Lambton High P&C, Newcastle District Cricket Association and a number of local residents, my concerns remain," she said.

She said Lambton High paid a yearly fee to Crown Lands to use the fields.

"Lambton High is a notoriously concrete school, and it would be a blow to the students to give up this area right on their doorstep," Ms Hornery said.

"This was acknowledged when a survey of parents was taken by the Lambton High P&C which showed more than 75 per cent of parents favoured retaining the site as undeveloped ovals for the school to continue to use."

An early concept plan for the proposed basketball stadium. Image supplied

Mr Gray said at least four senior cricket clubs and other junior teams used the playing fields in a part of Newcastle with strong participation levels in the sport.

He said Newcastle council had "not committed to any alternative solution" to move NDCA games.

"There's been no update at all," he said.

"As it stands we'll be down a couple of sports fields.

"Cricket is struggling to cater for growth here because of a lack of venues."

Mr Gray said Newcastle Basketball deserved a new stadium but "there are plenty of other locations it can be built".

City of Newcastle community and recreation executive manager Lynn Duffy said her team had been working closely with affected sporting groups and the high school to ensure they had new playing fields if the state government approved the stadium.

"We've met on several occasions with each of the groups that use Wallarah and Blackley ovals," she said.

"Each has provided us with a list of their needs so that we can ensure that the sporting groups are not adversely impacted by the need to relocate in 2025.

"We understand that relocating these sporting clubs will require upgrading of other local fields.

"We're in the process of finalising these field upgrades with the affected sporting groups and expect they will be more than happy with the final outcome."

A cutaway view of the proposed indoor basketball stadium beside Lambton High School. Image supplied

Cricket NSW area manager Neil McDonald said he was "looking forward to seeing what they come up with" when he met with council representatives on Monday.

Newcastle Basketball won a $25-million state grant in 2019 to build the stadium in Hillsborough, but the Hunter and Central Coast Regional Planning Panel rejected those plans last year.

The basketball association joined Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper and the council in announcing the new site for the project in March this year, three days before the NSW election.

The Herald understands Lambton High P&C is concerned about the potential loss of the fields, but the group did not respond to a request for comment.

Ms Hornery said she was concerned about flooding from a nearby stormwater channel and parking pressures on nearby residents. The stadium will have 205 parking spaces.

A map showing the proposed indoor basketball stadium location opposite Hunter Stadium. Image supplied

She said the basketball stadium should be built in the state government's proposed Hunter Park sports, leisure and residential precinct on the other side of Turton Road.

"A stadium could easily be included in the plans with minimal fuss and would co-exist well with the existing Hunter Stadium and planned new entertainment centre and other sporting and entertainment facilities," the MP said.

"In my mind, it is foolish to build a new basketball stadium, which would cause so many issues across the road, when there is a perfectly viable option in Hunter Park that could be carefully explored."

She said she would "publicly oppose" the development and raise the issue with the relevant ministers.

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