Athletes left with motors running
By Jason Dowling
April 21, 2011
VICTORIA'S new $50 million State Athletics Centre at Lakeside Oval Albert Park will be off limits to athletes at the peak of the athletics season next year because of the Melbourne Grand Prix.
The state's most important annual junior athletics event, the track and field championships, has been moved to Bendigo because of the Grand Prix and Athletics Victoria is in discussions with the Victorian government over how long it will be shut out of the venue in March.
The Grand Prix lockout comes as the South Melbourne Districts Little Athletics Club said Sports Minister Hugh Delahunty had refused to support the club in gaining access to the new facility.
Little Athletics Victoria general manager Dean Paulin said the Grand Prix lockout was disappointing and the main reason they did not become a tenant at the new athletics facility.
He said not holding the state's most important junior athletics event at the state's pre-eminent venue was a big blow for junior athletes. ''All the kids love to compete at the home of athletics, as was the case with Olympic Park,'' he said.
''Our bread-and-butter event is the state track and field championships and for the next five years we are going to have to seek an alternative venue.''
Athletics Victoria chief executive Nick Honey said the March Grand Prix occurred ''when our championship season is, so we pretty much understand we have to work around that''.
He said that while they would like to have access to the new stadium whenever they chose ''we went there knowing this (Grand Prix) existed''.
Asked if he was concerned about lack of access to the new facility because of the Grand Prix, he said, ''if we can't get into the stadium for six weeks yes we are - if we can't get into it for a week, no we are not''.
Mr Honey said the Australian Grand Prix Corporation had indicated they were happy to meet with Athletics Victoria to discuss the access issue.
A spokeswoman for Mr Delahunty said South Melbourne Districts Little Athletics Club could apply for access to new facility. ''It's a state-of-the-art facility that is under huge demand by athletes all over Victoria and a fair and equitable system had been provided to determine access to the venue.''
She said the new athletics centre would only be closed for one week because of the Grand Prix. ''There is access all other times.''