A sporting chance

Joel Peterson | Bendigo Weekly | 05-Oct-2017

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AS the timber flooring was  being installed in the new Bendigo Stadium this week, CEO Nathan O’Neill was hoping the foundation he and the organisation’s new executive team can lay is just as solid.

O’Neill was appointed CEO on Monday after spending more than six months in the acting role following the departure of Jason Wallace in March.

A Bendigo local, O’Neill comes from a background working for Coca Cola Amatil and Carlton and United Breweries in state-based roles before joining the stadium in August last year.

“It’s a big step, we’re looking forward to what’s in front of us and we know the 4000-seat arena will provide some fantastic sport and entertainment events,” he said.

Key among his tasks in the job will be overseeing the completion of the $20 million redevelopment, and doubling down on the organisations commitment to its community.

That comes as the stadium weighs up its options in regards to the development of the Wellington Hotel and associated pokies, which have been blocked at various levels of government.

The proposal for development of the Wellington was blocked by council, while its application for 44 pokies at the Wellington was rejected by Victoria’s gambling and liquor regulator on the basis the potential social harm outweighed its benefits.

Mr O’Neill said this week the stadium’s board was still weighing up its options in regards to both applications.

“We’ve submitted our application by the timeline to go to VCAT, we’re working closely with our team in terms of what our next steps,” he said.

“Ultimately we want to be able to redevelop the Wellington for the population of Epsom and White Hills and everything else will be considered.”

Stadium chairman Brendon Goddard has previously said the stadium would not push for the redevelopment at the Wellington without pokies.

The new showcourt and associated facilities are due for completion early next year, an organisational restructure is still taking effect and the Wellington decision looming, meaning there is no shortage of challenges to work through.

But O’Neill is approaching them with an attitude of optimism, all while reinforcing the organisation’s commitment to the community.

He said the stadium will be announcing several major events in the next few months.

Despite the big ticket items, the cornerstone of the stadium’s day-to-day operations remains its domestic competitions, which are growing on record participation levels.

“It’s about healthier living for the community, we know that domestic sport is quite strong and that growth in participation are good,” he said.

“I think the basketball and volleyball users will be very excited about what we’ve got for them.”

He said he is looking forward to the stadium having a big impact.

“The new executive team all have no longer than six months with the organisation, what we want to do from now on is amplify our community leadership and make a stand of what we can deliver,” Mr O’Neill said.

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