By Peter Douglas
A decade of behind-the-scenes hard work was acknowledged as the $10 million Monbulk Regional Soccer Centre was unveiled on Saturday 25 March.
Parents, players, club members and a host of dignitaries attended the opening ceremony, which paid tribute to the high level of teamwork required to turn this regional project into a reality.
All present delighted in the finished product, which includes two FIFA-size synthetic soccer pitches, 12 lighting towers, pavilion, social area, male and female change facilities, and kitchen and storage facilities.
The main beneficiaries will be the 45 teams and 650 players who will have access to the modern facilities.
Yarra Ranges Mayor, Cr Noel Cliff, led the unveiling, and ensured he acknowledged the collaboration between the club and all levels of government.
“Ten years on and we are here, the Monbulk Regional Soccer facility. Who’d have believed it – but doesn’t it look great,” Cr Cliff said.
“We wouldn’t be here without all this co-operation between state and federal government.
“The club has gone from 100 members to about 650 since 1999 … that’s pretty damn good.”
For the project, ratepayers tipped in $7.2 million, while the Victorian Government ($650,000) and Federal Government ($2 million) also contributed substantial funding.
In attendance were Casey MP Tony Smith, Monbulk MP James Merlino and others who have been keenly observing the project’s progress, including former councillors Graham Warren, Jason Callanan and Samantha Dunn.
Present councillors Mike Clarke and Tim Heenan also lent their support.
Club president Lisa Doolan said the facility was a coup for the wider community, given the need to cater for increasing participant rates.
“The need for this project has never been questioned,” she said.
“We have 45 teams comprising boys, girls, mixed, and a senior men’s and women’s team … ranging in age from four years to 58.”
Ms Doolan said the result was worth the wait.
“It was a lengthy process but we had to demonstrate our need with facts and figures,” she said.
“The project has been showcased by Football Federation Victoria as a great example of a club/council partnership,” she said.
Ms Doolan paid tribute to all those who had believed in the facility.
“A local councillor (former) Graham Warren, along with the Monbulk Soccer Club and the Sherbrooke Rangers Soccer Club, got this project up and running,” she said.
“This required the two clubs to merge and become what we are now.
“We are deeply indebted to Graham and the inaugural committee, who had a vision.”
Meanwhile, Tony Smith and James Merlino also said the facility was a shining example of what can be achieved when all levels of government worked together.
Mr Merlino said that his connection with the facility would be far from fleeting.
“We live in Montrose at the moment, but we’ve just bought a block three minutes from here,” Mr Merlino said.
“My Sophie, who is nine years old, has been wearing the green, white and red of the Croydon City Arrows for the last couple of years.
“She’s now going to wear the beautiful maroon and gold of the Monbulk Rangers.”