The Queensland Rugby Union's iconic Ballymore Park could be transformed into a world-class sports precinct and national headquarters for women's rugby following a $15 million election commitment from the Australian Labor Party.
Heavy lobbying from QRU and Rugby Australia officials over several years led to the announcement today from shadow Minister for Sport, Senator Don Farrell and Labor candidate for the seat of Brisbane, Dr Paul Newbury that Labor would commit $15 million towards the proposed National Rugby Training Centre if it wins the federal election.
The QRU has had advanced discussions with the Palaszczuk State Labor Government on a matching $15 million commitment, with a further $5 million to be contributed towards the project from within Australian Rugby.
The commitment would remove the financial millstone that has been hanging around the neck of the QRU for decades for upkeep of the dilapidated Herston facility.
Plans for the redevelopment of Ballymore have been many, with then Prime Minister John Howard making a $25 million pledge in 2007 only for a Rudd Labor government to renege on the deal, while a 2010 proposal that included commercial facilities including a motel and licenced club did not go ahead.
But the latest plan includes working with Brisbane City Council to create new links across Enoggera Creek with the Newmarket sporting fields, a vision that sits well with a 1966 Deed of Grant in Trust allocated by the state government for sport and recreation facilities on the land alongside Enoggera Creek.
As part of the plan, Rugby Australia would base its national women's XVs program in Queensland and the facility would also act as a base for the Wallabies while in Brisbane.
Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle said Ballymore was a number one infrastructure priority for the game in Australia.
“It is critical to the development of the game both in Queensland and nationally,” Castle said.
Under plans for the area, a $35 million high-performance centre would replace the McLean Stand as a centrepiece for the precinct that would become a recreation hub for the city, opening Ballymore to the public with green spaces and bicycle and walking paths.
The centre includes a 3000 seat stand to replace the McLean stand, allowing for games such as Wallaroos Tests, Queensland Premier Rugby finals and other rugby and sporting events.
QRU Chief Executive Officer David Hanham welcomed the ALP and Dr Newbury’s commitment.
“This is the culmination of many years of hard work by QRU and Rugby Australia to deliver a world-class sports and community precinct that meets the needs of rugby and the community we share Ballymore with,” he said.
“To provide a high-performance centre to support our elite women’s and men’s programs will ensure Queensland remains at the forefront of athlete and coach development.
"It also ensures that our many state-wide club and school users receive the benefit of an upgraded Ballymore."
Castle said while Rugby Australia already had key staff based in Brisbane, having a world class centre for our women’s XVs programs at Ballymore would allow the program to grow.
"Queensland now has more than 16,000 women and girls playing the game and those numbers are rising rapidly," Castle said.
“The NRTC will also become an option for Wallabies training camps and a base for national development programs.”
The precinct would also become a hub for the game in the Pacific.
Rugby Australia deputy chairman Brett Robinson, who also represents Australia on the World Rugby Council, said Ballymore would also become a key hub for Pacific competitions the world body would run.
"World rugby are very supportive of us bringing games here and also using the facility for training, for coaching development and to turn it into an Asia-Pacific Centre of Excellence for rugby.
"So on behalf of Rugby Australia, this is a great announcement for the game."