The Goulburn Hockey Association is calling on The Workers Club to sell land to the council to ensure the sport's longevity in the city.
Association president Nadine Ward has lodged a motion to this effect for the Club's October 27 annual general meeting.
It follows revelations that the council is set to reject the Club's offer to lease the Workers Arena hockey fields for $120,000 annually. Mayor Bob Kirk says unless the council owns the facility and can secure neighbouring land, it cannot grow the sport.
The Association agrees. Mrs Ward this week submitted the motion and called for its debate at the Club's AGM.
"The way we look at it, if they're not planning to do anything with the land for 20 years, as they've said, it's just sitting there doing nothing. I, as a community and Club member, would like to see it used for the community," she said.
But The Workers' board chairman, Tony Dawson, says the Club has more immediate infrastructure priorities and will not sell the complex. It has given the council seven weeks to respond to its September 27 expression of interest lease offer.
He added that the motion would not be admitted to the AGM because under the Club's constitution, it had to be submitted 42 days prior and then gain board approval for its acceptance.
"We can't make exceptions and have to stay within the guidelines. At the end of the day, we are sticking firm that we don't want to sell that land," Mr Dawson said.
However he said the matter could be discussed in the meeting's general business and that he would endeavour to answer questions.
Mrs Ward said as the Club only publicly advertised the AGM on October 3, she couldn't possibly have met the 42-day requirement. She wants more open discussion on what she says is a crisis for local hockey.
Although the council has been exploring construction of a new $10 million complex at Carr Confoy fields, it does not have funding and is yet to gain DA approval.
"Our preference is to stay at the Workers Arena because it's more cost effective for us and the council and it's a quicker process to get the two fields up and running," she said.
"...It makes sense to stay where we are but have the two fields. With only one available it is way too difficult to schedule games around families' other sporting times. We are losing members as a result."
A second field has been unusable for five years. The Club has told the Association it was too expensive to upgrade it.
Mrs Ward told the Post that as the Association couldn't afford to improve the surface or secure grants, members felt they had no other choice but to ask the council for help in exploring options for the sport's future.
"We have 700 to 800 members and contribute so much to the community," Mrs Ward said.
"Our members have become state and international players and the fact that it has got to this point is disheartening. The sport could be so much bigger and it could do for the community what indoor hockey has done. We feel held back."
'Building a case'
The Workers Club built the hockey complex in 1992 with the held of almost $500,000 in state and federal grants. The Association contributed $120,000 and agreed to shift from Cookbundoon where it had eight fields.
Mrs Ward pointed to what she said were Workers Club commitments to upgrade the new sand-based fields every 18 months to two years. But since 1992 only one had been improved. This was also despite a reported 2010/11 Club statement that it would resurface the now disused field within 18 months.
The Association is requesting copies of the 1992 agreement, insurance documents covering the damaged field and financial statements detailing the amount contributed by the Association and the Club to the facility over the years. Mrs Ward said the Club had provided financial statements for the past seven years only.
"It's about building a case because we need a home," she said.
It was also aimed at assessing the cost of shifting versus remaining. Mrs Ward believes it is more economical to stay and hopes that all parties can agree on a solution that's best for the community.
"We are not against the Workers Club. Every meeting has been positive. It's just that we're at a crisis point and we need a solution," she said.
Workers president Tony Dawson says the board is elected to make decisions on members' behalf and feels no moral obligation to allow Hockey's motion at this month's AGM.
Regarding the 42-day rule, he argued every noticeboard in the club had advised of the timeframe to submit special items of business to the AGM.
He has again highlighted the Club's more than $11m building program in coming years, including a motel, multi-storey car park and upgrade of the existing front gaming lounge, which does not include extra poker machines. The Club will borrow most of the money.
It turned a net $115,552 profit last financial year and gave $617,755 in community donations, including to sporting teams, the 2018/19 annual report states.
"That amount is well above our obligations and is too much," Mr Dawson said of the donations.
"For us to borrow we are only allowed to give away a certain percentage of net profit to the community and sporting organisations, otherwise banks won't look at you... We can't put ourselves in that position."
He also rejected suggestions the Club should take some responsibility given the government grants and the fact that the Workers originally bought the land from the council for just $32,000.
"Council agreed to build an offsite hockey complex and that's where it sits," Mr Dawson said.
He also pointed out that before a 25-year lease ended with the Association five years ago and a new agreement struck, the Club paid all hockey outgoings, except for electricity.
Mrs Ward has questioned Mr Dawson's previous claim that the complex cost The Workers $240,000 annually to maintain. She said the Club paid for maintenance, electricity and security.
"I do understand the emotion involved but we have to make decisions based on cold hard facts," Mr Dawson said.
He told The Post that if hockey had so much potential in the region then the council should promote it.
Councillors will discuss the Club's lease offer at their meeting on Tuesday, October 15.
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