The Willaura community celebrated a significant milestone on Friday following the announcement of a $390,000 contribution from the Victorian Government to upgrade the Willaura Recreation Reserve.
Willaura Recreation Reserve committee treasurer Ron Jenkinson said the committee, who oversaw the grant application, was ecstatic when Member for Western Victoria, Jaala Pulford, delivered the news.
"When we heard the news we were over the moon," he said.
"It's been a long time coming, and with the help of the Ararat council, we got it over the line.
"The idea was kicked around for a while, but no one took it to the next level.
"Finally, someone was prepared to get behind the idea with a bit more energy.
"Dr Tim (Ararat Rural City Council chief executive Dr Tim Harrison) was a breath of fresh air."
First reported by the Ararat Advertiser on Friday, the Willaura upgrade was part of a $535,353 investment into the local government area by the government.
The Mininera Recreation Reserve will receive $115,353 to install an automatic irrigation system and resurface the oval, and the Ararat Fitness Centre will undergo a $30,00 feasibility study.
Mr Jenkinson said the $390,000 grant would go towards female-friendly change rooms on the southern end of the clubrooms.
"The clubrooms haven't received any upgrades for 40-50 years," he said.
"Ararat Rural City Council has put some money aside in their budget, and we (reserve committee) have been working hard too.
"The committee hosted several community dinners, which was popular, especially after the pub closed.
"We raised about $100,000, which shows a big commitment from the committee."
Mr Jenkins said the committee would use the extra funds to upgrade the existing clubrooms, shower facilities, social rooms, kitchen and bar.
The reserve is home to the Moyston-Willaura Football Netball Club and Willaura Cricket Club.
Netballer Kelly Evans said she was grinning from ear-to-ear when she received the news.
"I couldn't believe the news - I'm extremely happy," she said.
"We will finally get some new facilities.
"We have been campaigning for an upgrade for a very long time."
The club enters seven netball teams into the Mininera and District Football Netball League.
While on a training night there are more than 70 netballers using the change rooms, on game day that number jumps to more than 120.
Ms Evans said the changes rooms are overdue for repair.
"The toilets are a disgrace," she said.
"There are double showers and the hand basins right straight into the shower floor.
"They are in desperate need of upgrading."
Dr Tim Harrison applauded the strength of Willaura Recreation Reserve committee.
"It's a good outcome for everyone involved," he said.
"We have a small community in Willaura that looked forward... (beyond) the traditional path of funding applications.
"They have thought outside the box, and they were rewarded.
"Same goes to Mininera - they rely heavily on a small group of volunteers to water the ground numerous times a week. That's a big ask."
The grants are part of the State Government's 2020-21 Local Sports Infrastructure Fund.
For more information about infrastructure grant opportunities available through the Victorian Government, visit www.sport.vic.gov.au.
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