ARARAT - With football season just around the corner Alexandra Oval is a hub of activity, with the facility redevelopment in full swing and players slogging it out on the oval in preparation for the year ahead.
With the Fiscalini Pavilion demolished just prior to Christmas, Ararat Football-Netball Club president Bill Bell said the Ararat Rats and Ararat Eagles have agreed to terms for the coming season.
"The two clubs will use the community building as a social space for the year and the Rats have invited the Eagles to use the new gym and training facilities that have been established under the Olver Grandstand, which was previously our social rooms space," he said.
"By sharing those facilities we have saved both clubs and council $15,000 to $20,000 that would've had to have been spent on setting up portables."
Bell said visiting football clubs in both the Wimmera and Mininera and District Football Leagues will access the oval's west side toilet block as temporary changerooms.
The toilet block will undergo modifications including showers and extra space, with Ararat Rural City Council to install hot water for the visiting football club to use on game day.
Bell said the final touches on the Olver Stand and visitors' rooms will be complete in the coming weeks.
"Our first aid and trainers room has been all set up now and is being utilised during pre-season training," he said.
"There will be showers put into the Olver Stand toilets for game day and the canteen is going to be converted into an umpires' changeroom which will also include a shower.
"Our understanding is that these modifications will be happening during February. We have indicated to Council that we may be hosting practice matches in March and so we need full use of the facilities by then."
Representatives from the Ararat Rats and Ararat Eagles Football-Netball Clubs have been meeting regularly with Council officers since November to reach a resolution in time for the 2014 season.
Bell said while the Alexandra Oval redevelopment may cause some minor disruptions, the club is looking forward to the end result.
"Ararat has been encouraged by the positive attitude of the Eagles to agree to have shared facilities throughout this year and that relationship will help make for a smoother transition into the new building when that is complete," he said.
"We are pretty excited about the new development and what it will mean for not only our club, but sport in the region.
"I'd like to, on behalf of the club, thank the Alexandra Oval Committee of Management led by Gayle Dadswell as well as Council, particularly Barkley Vincent and Alison Tonkin, for being open to our ideas and feedback and working together with us to achieve a positive outcome.
“We are still working towards a vision on what the future use of the space under the Olver Grandstand will become when the redevelopment is complete.
“My hope is that it will be able to be used as a community space, perhaps even a creche with a play area for children that will overlook the netball courts.”
Bell said the Ararat Rats’ senior group had been putting in ‘the hard yards’ over summer in readiness for the Wimmera Football League season.
With joint coaches Andrew Louder and David Hosking at the helm once again, the Rats kicked off their pre-season campaign in mid-November.
“The training side of things is going really good,” Bell said.
“We are getting numbers up to the high 30s most nights and we have a number of new recruits that we will announce in due course as the season gets closer. I am fairly positive in that we can improve on our performances from last year and take that next step.
“I have been really proud of our young playing group that have really applied themselves throughout the pre-season so far.
“It has been hard work, but under the guidance of Jill Brennan, our strength and conditioning coach and Marcus Cooper, who has designed a lot of the running program, the boys are getting a lot out of it. I know our two senior coaches are very happy with where the group is at.”
Bell said the Rats were in the process of finalising their junior coaches, with an announcement to be made in the coming days.
“The club has a very positive vibe at the moment and I am really looking forward to the future,” he said.
“This year there will be some minor adjustments as we prepare to transition into the new building, but the club and players already seem to be handling it very well.”