Stadium lease stoush in overtime

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Bursting at seams: The Opals took on Japan in front of an overpacked crowd at Frankston Basketball Stadium in 2015. Picture: Gary Sissons

A STALEMATE over lease terms for the use of the Frankston Basketball Stadium that threatens a $12.7 million upgrade and expansion of the stadium is no closer to resolution two weeks after The Times first revealed a breakdown in negotiations between Frankston Council and the Frankston & District Basketball Association.

Meetings between council CEO Dennis Hovenden, the mayor Cr Brian Cunial, councillors and association representatives have failed to resolve a dispute over increased lease payments to council by the not-for-profit association.

The association says it has been trying to agree to a new lease since mid-2015. Council has ordered developer Devco Project & Construction Management to stop preliminary works at the Seaford site since a new lease has not been signed.

Cr Cunial has said council “cannot be held to ransom” over the lease negotiations.

The FDBA is contributing $1 million to the expansion project and believes council is double dipping in “a cash grab” by increasing annual lease payments from about $30,000 annually to about $60,000 plus a 6 per cent take on future revenue above $1 million, bringing the total payable to about $160,000 each year.

The $160,000 payable each year would effectively repay $4 million of ratepayers’ money being committed by council to the stadium upgrade, to include four more basketball courts, over a 25-year lease term reviewed every five years.

The state government is contributing $2.5 million to the project. Frankston MP Paul Edbrooke and Carrum MP Sonya Kilkenny have called on council to get on with the much-needed stadium upgrade.

Both MPs raised the matter in parliament late last week and have asked Local Government Minister Natalie Hutchins to visit Frankston to speak to council to find out “exactly what is going on”.

“My office has received around 50 calls and numerous emails on the serious issue of why the $12.7 million Frankston & District Basketball Association redevelopment, in which the state government is a multi-million dollar stakeholder, has stalled following a closed council meeting,” Mr Edbrooke said.

“I would like the minister to visit the Frankston electorate and meet with a delegation of my constituents regarding the basketball association that services over 13,000 people per annum in the Frankston and surrounding electorates. Sadly, due to the amount of courts, people are having to play basketball at 11 o’clock at night, and that is why we have this project, which is funded by all levels of government and the basketball association.

“The project is worth $12.7 million. But it has stalled because of a failed renegotiation of the lease with the local council. It is a great project and a project that our community desperately needs. We know that sport is the glue that holds the fabric of our community together in Frankston. Builders are on-site but they have been instructed to cease their operations.”

Ms Kilkenny said the stadium “is bursting at the seams”.

“The priority now must be the local community, not a cash grab by Frankston City Council,” the Carrum MP said.

“Frankston Council needs to lift its game and start the Frankston Basketball Stadium upgrade as soon as possible, and my local community deserves to know why Frankston City Council has suspended the project and what it plans to do with the project going forward. My community and I look forward to the Minister’s action.”

Basketball association general manager Nathan Jolly says council has agreed to defer the 6 per cent revenue take for 18 months but it “is still on the table”.

“The FDBA board of management will be meeting early next week to discuss revised terms from Frankston City with a formal response to be provided to council in due course,” Mr Jolly said.

“Along with the 6 per cent tax still being included in revised terms, council has still not advised a way forward for key items to be delivered as part of the wider expansion project that the FDBA have previously requested.

“The support the FDBA has received over the last few weeks since news broke of the lease negotiation impasse has been overwhelming and reinforces the FDBA board of management’s view that fighting for what is right is still one of life’s great endeavours which the FDBA, as a good community citizen is committed to until resolution to this impasse is achieved.”

Devco installed work sheds and containers on site before being ordered to stop work by Mr Hovenden until a new lease for the stadium, located on council-owned land, is signed.

A final contract was not been finalised and it is understood letters of understanding were signed between council and the builder but no penalty clauses apply now work has stopped.

First published in the Frankston Times – 27 March 2017

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