New, larger stadium to rise from ashes

Somerville stadium demolition_ J Bravo_ 001.JPG

Rebuilding: Most of the wreckage left by the fire (above) which destroyed the Somerville Community and Recreation Centre has already been removed. A new, larger basketball stadium is planned for the site in Edward St. Damage to the building has been put at $1.5 – $2 million. Picture: Jarryd Bravo.

Photo: Gary Sissons

Picture: Gary Sissons

WESTERN Port Basketball Association players are still coming to terms with the tragic loss of their stadium at Somerville after it was destroyed by fire, Sunday morning last week.

Operations manager Tyler Molloy said the “devastating impact on our basketball family and greater community is enormous as we continue to face the fact that it is now reality”.

Teenagers lit a small fire underneath the grandstand to keep warm but it spread quickly and took hold before they could put it out. The building was “fully involved” when CFA crews arrived at 7.30am.

A 14-year-old Somerville girl was charged the following day with criminal damage by fire. She will face Frankston Children’s Court on Tuesday 7 June.

The damage bill for the Edward St stadium is expected to be $1.5-$2 million.

Association president James Langford – who took over as president only the week before the fire – said the stadium would be rebuilt, either with the original two courts or with four courts now that an insurance payout has been approved.

He said the extra courts would cover the existing skate park.

“We sat down Tuesday with shire officers and got a verbal agreement for rebuilding,” he said.

“We worked through different options, such as building the four courts at once or as a staged development – depending on the funding. We discussed other venues also. We are keen to get started.”

Donations have already been accepted for a new stadium and fundraisers will be organised “once we count the total loss and damage to club property”, Mr Langford said.

“We have lost our office, our training equipment, our home. We have lost memorabilia that dates back 20 years to Western Port’s beginnings at Bittern stadium, items that can never be replaced.”

Mr Langford said the Western Port basketball association was second in size only to Frankston.

“We still have our WPBA family of 290 junior rep players, 1200 domestic players, 40 Big V players, 50 referees, as well as coaches, parents and volunteers that will all come together and work as hard as we can to build this wonderful family club back to bigger and better things.”

He said original plans drawn up in the mid-1990s made allowances for two extra courts. “They laid the pipes then and some of those pipes were cracked in the demolition work last week, so we know they are there.”

Mr Langford said the hardwood, lacquer-painted floors on the courts, grandstand and multi-purpose room fuelled the blaze.

“At the moment no one’s missing out on games or training, but if we want to grow the association and keep kids off the street we have to get started.

“People have been very generous; it is greatly appreciated and we will be holding fundraising events in the coming weeks.”

The domestic competition will go on but games that were to be played at Somerville Recreation Centre will be rescheduled to other venues.

Junior teams will play home games at Dromana Secondary College and at Elisabeth Murdoch College, Langwarrin, on Friday nights. The website will show any other fixture changes.

In May, the association’s Big V games will be played at Hillview Stadium, Rosebud Secondary College. After that, they may play at either Hillview or Dromana, but other venues may be used when available.

He said office staff – temporarily based at Somerville Plaza – would advise referees on fixture changes.

Shire mayor Cr Graham Pittock said the fire had destroyed a much-loved community asset.

“The centre was an important community hub, and used by many for sport and recreation activities.  Authorities are investigating, and the shire is working with community and sporting groups to find alternative arrangements as quickly as possible,” he said.

Shire customer service staff previously based at the stadium have moved to the Somerville library, 1085 Frankston-Flinders Rd, Somerville. Payments can be made online or at the Hastings Shire Office, Marine Parade, Hastings.  Call 1300 850 600.

For alternative childcare or maternal and child health care arrangements call the shire on: 1300 850 600.

Fitness classes and activities are at Pelican Park Recreation Centre, Hastings, call 1300 850 197.

Somerville Community House services are unavailable. See Somerville Community House on Facebook or call 5977 8330.

User groups can contact the shire on 5950 1150.

First published in the Mornington News – 10 May 2016