Gift venue’s world-class potential

SUPPORT: People packed Central Park to support this year's Stawell Gift. Now the question beckons, can Stawell can go one step further? Picture: LACHLAN BENCE
SUPPORT: People packed Central Park to support this year's Stawell Gift. Now the question beckons, can Stawell can go one step further? Picture: LACHLAN BENCE

Last week’s Stawell Gift saw the biggest crowds pile into Central Park in more than 10 years – but Stawell Athletic Club president Neil Blizzard says more infrastructure was needed if Stawell wanted to jointly host the 2030 Commonwealth Games. 

The comments come after last week’s announcement Greater Shepparton City Council is leading a campaign for regional Victorian cities to jointly host the Games. It would see events shared between Shepparton, Bendigo, Ballarat, Geelong, Mildura, Wodonga and Warrnambool.

Horsham council has already stated it will investigate opportunities to be involved.

Mr Blizzard said Stawell did not have the infrastructure or accommodation to take on such an event. 

“We would need an oval like the MCG or the SCG,” Mr Blizzard said.

Northern Grampians mayor Tony Driscoll said the region would be considerably more accessible to the public in 2030 than it was today.

“We are talking about 2030, which is a fair way off,” he said.

“You can imagine the scenario with the evolution of facilities and services by then – especially when planning for a specific event or events.

“When it comes to transport, the Western Highway would be fully duplicated to Stawell and there would be a reliable passenger rail service between Melbourne and Horsham.”

Cr Driscoll said having the imagination to work in with developments was crucial.

“To pinch a famous quote, it’s not about asking why, but asking why not?” he said.

“Who’s to say we couldn’t schedule, for example, a major cycling event in the Grampians around the same time the athletes are in Australia? We’ve already seen how that can work in Halls Gap. Or perhaps we could pursue other sporting events.”

Mr Blizzard said the Gift proved the town could host a world-class event. 

“This Stawell Gift had incredible numbers. It was clearly our best result in over 10 years,” he said.

“The running was fantastic and close and the success of the event proves we can run and organise a world-class event.”