Stadium upgrade in strife

In jeopardy: Construction works at Frankston Basketball Stadium have stopped over disagreement over a new lease.

MILLIONS of dollars in state and federal funding could be lost to the Frankston area amid a stand off over a new lease for the Frankston Basketball Stadium.

Construction work on a first stage $12.7 million expansion of the basketball stadium has been halted by Frankston Council over a disagreement between council and the Frankston & District Basketball Association.

It is understood council is seeking to double the annual amount of rent paid by the basketball association to about $60,000 a year and also wants a 6 per cent take of some of the association’s future income. The association estimates the tax will cost $120,000 annually.

The association is pitching in $1 million to stage one of the Seaford stadium expansion to include retractable seating, four more courts taking the total on site to ten and a new reception area.

The federal government is contributing $5.2 million of taxpayers’ money, the state government $2.5 million of taxpayers’ money and Frankston Council $4 million of ratepayers’ money to stage one of the project.

Council CEO Dennis Hovenden confirmed works at the stadium by builder Devco Project & Construction Management have been stopped.

“Construction works on the Frankston Basketball Stadium redevelopment have been temporarily halted due to an agreement not being reached with the Frankston District Basketball Association for a future lease model,” Mr Hovenden said in a statement.

“Council is working alongside the association to discuss potential options in order to proceed with the much-needed upgrade of the stadium.”

Devco had begun installing work sheds and storage containers on site.

Frankston councillors met last Monday evening (6 March) at a special meeting behind closed doors – since the lease is deemed commercial in confidence – to discuss the new lease terms for the Frankston & District Basketball Association.

Council officers refused to tell the basketball association the outcome of last Monday’s meeting including how councillors voted on the lease terms.

It is understood a majority of councillors voted to press ahead with the demand for higher lease payments.

Council CEO Dennis Hovenden instead requested a meeting with the association’s board, the mayor and councillors within three days of last Monday’s meeting to discuss the new lease.

This meeting was later postponed until Tuesday 14 March.

A letter from basketball association president Steve Ashley to Mr Hovenden, mayor Cr Brian Cunial and all councillors last week accused council of “bordering on unconscionable behaviour” in imposing “unreasonable” deadlines during negotiations with the not-for-profit organisation.

While not commenting on the specifics of the lease negotiations, North-West ward councillors – whose electorate includes Seaford – fear about $7.7 million of federal and state funding will be lost to Frankston if agreement cannot be reached.

“This is one of the biggest projects we’ve had in the North-West ward,” Cr Aitken said.

“It would be a disaster for this project to not proceed.

“If this money, for instance, was simply to be returned to the state and federal government then it would be seen publicly in a very bad light by the community.”

Cr Aitken said the association and the project have his complete support.

Cr Bolam wants answers to why last-minute lease negotiations have put the $12.7 million project in jeopardy.

“I see it as a highly unusual practice, after four years of supposed meticulous planning, to have a situation where the lease agreement has yet to be determined just days before the shovels hit the ground.”

Cr O’Connor said the association and council “need to work together to get the best outcome for the community”.

The breakdown in lease negotiations contrasts with council’s positivity about the stadium upgrade in January (“Basketball stadium upgrade to begin”, The Times 16/1/17).

Cr Cunial announced in January the awarding of the building contract to Devco was “great news for the community”.

Federal Dunkley Liberal MP Chris Crewther and state Labor MPs Paul Edbrooke (Frankston) and Sonya Kilkenny (Carrum) welcomed the start of construction works that same month.

“I am proud to support our local sporting clubs and venues and build upon the sporting facilities available in Dunkley.” Mr Crewther said in January.

“Sport helps provide confidence for youth, education, health and community involvement. It has a strong preventative effect in regards to disconnection and youth crime.”

Mr Edbrooke said: “Basketball is such a popular sport in our local community which is why I was so proud to provide the funding and look forward to construction starting. This is another example of the state government partnering with council and listening to our community to deliver important infrastructure.”

Ms Kilkenny said: “Great things can happen for our community when all three levels of government work together. Who knows, the next Lauren Jackson, Andrew Gaze or Michael Jordan might just come through Frankston Basketball.  As the local state member I would love to see that happen.”

First published in the Frankston Times – 13 March 2017

UPDATE: Frankston & District Basketball Association has issued a statement to its members confirming stadium works have been delayed. The association says a 6 per cent tax on gross revenue would see the FDBA pay an additional $120,000 to council annually based on estimates. The above article was amended on 15 March to include the $120,000 estimate.

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