The state government has released the first designs of the 30,000-seat stadium it will start building in Parramatta early next year. The new Western Sydney Stadium will replace the existing Pirtek Stadium in Parramatta Park. It will cost $300 million to build.
The Sydney Morning Herald has reported the stadium will have “the steepest stands of any in Australia” (for a better view) and wi-fi. Premier Mike Baird says it’s “the biggest investment in sporting and entertainment infrastructure since the 2000 Olympics" and estimates it will generate 1200 construction and 900 ongoing jobs.
But many in Parramatta are not impressed.
To build the stadium the Parramatta War Memorial Pool will be demolished. The much-loved outdoor pool was built in 1959 and is a 10-lane, 50-metre Olympic-standard pool with one of only two Olympic-standard diving towers in the entire city. The pool caters for water polo tournaments, swimming lessons, lifesaving training and has two kids pools. It was built with funds raised by the public on trust land (set aside for public use or for conservation). Comments and activity on the North Parramatta Residents Action Group’s (NPRAG) Facebook group and a page called Save Parramatta Pool show how important the space is to the local community. Residents have vented their anger and frustration that their pool and public space is being taken from them. Without it, there will be no pool in Parramatta.
Federal MP for Parramatta Julie Owens believes locals have every right to be angry. She says the state government did not consult the community about the stadium or its consequences.
“If [the community] had been consulted they would be saying, very clearly, that they want the pool to stay,” Owens tells Broadsheet.
“[The state government] is supposed to go through a process of community consultation to make any changes to the use of trust land. And that has not happened.” She adds, “Consulting with the fans of a couple of the teams that play at the stadium does not qualify.”
Owens concedes the current stadium needs upgrading, but does not believe it needs to be at the expense of the pool or the parkland around it. “We have two great teams here, the Parramatta Eels and the Western Sydney Wanderers. And certainly, for the Wanderers in particular, an upgraded stadium is incredibly important because of the requirements of the football league. There are reasons to have a bigger and better stadium. The issue for the community is, do they have to loose the pool in order to have that?
The other major concern for Owens and residents is there has been no commitment to replace the pool, which at its busiest can have up to 1500 visitors a day.
“This is one of those quiet, seething issues,” she says. “There’s a growing sense of powerlessness; you don’t even know who to go to about this stuff because you don’t know how the decisions are being made – they seem to be made somewhere in the sanctum of Macquarie Street and dumped on us from a great height.”
A rally against demolishing Parramatta War Memorial Pool will be held on Sunday December 8 at 11am at Centenary Square, Parramatta.