The Age: Cricket club stumped by east-west link eviction. January 28, 2014. Richard Willingham. State Political Correspondent for The Age
Joe Loh, front, with daughter Scarlett, and members of the Royal Park Reds Cricket Club. Photo: Wayne Taylor
A Royal Park cricket club is being turfed out of its decades-old ground to make way for another cricket team whose pitch will be demolished by the east-west link project.
Royal Park Reds Cricket Club has been told it has to leave Poplar Oval so the City of Melbourne can build turf wickets for the Mercantile Cricket Association, which is losing two pitches at Ross Straw Field to make way for the tunnel project.
The Reds were only told in December that they were being forced off Poplar Oval, the club’s home since 1986.
Only tenant clubs at Ross Straw Field have had constant consultation with Linking Melbourne Authority.
The City of Melbourne said a December meeting was the first opportunity to talk to all clubs after a memorandum of understanding had been signed by the council and Linking Melbourne Authority.
“We have been ignored completely,” Reds club president Joe Loh said. ”I didn’t receive a phone call or personal email mentioning the oval’s future.”
The club plays on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, while the Youlden-Parkville Cricket Club juniors use the oval on Saturday mornings.
Youlden-Parkville club president Paul Sinclair said the plan would damage growth of junior cricket.
“The bottom line is there will be less playing field but more demand,” Mr Sinclair said. “The east-west tunnel will help people get fatter, slower and lonely, and not help Melbourne.”
The Royal Park Reds is a socialist cricket club playing on synthetic wickets, with a philosophy that all, regardless of ability and income, are welcome to play.
Mr Loh’s father was a founding member of the Reds in 1979 and his ashes were scattered on the oval, which has been the club’s base since 1986.
The City of Melbourne has told the club it can move to a redeveloped Crawford Oval – the southernmost oval in Princes Park – in three years. Unlike at Poplar Oval, there would no club rooms for the Reds.
Mr Loh fears that without a club room and a home base in the area – the council has suggested playing home games in South Yarra – it will fold.
The Mercantile Cricket Association, in its submission, argued against transforming Poplar Oval, instead calling for more turf fields in Princes Park.
However, the council rejected that plan, saying the ovals would be too small and too close to residents.
The clubs say putting in turf at Poplar would create an even smaller ground and would mean games are dangerously close to the popular Capital City bike and walking track.
The council disagrees. A spokeswoman for the City of Melbourne said: “Sports fields suitable for conversion to turf cricket in Royal Park are limited to Flemington Road Oval and Poplar Oval.”
She said disruption caused by the east-west link would affect a number of clubs, adding the council was working to minimise disruption during works but was constrained by suitability of locations, timing and the number of clubs requiring relocation.
Another meeting about sporting facilities is scheduled for next month.
The state government has provided a $15 million package for sporting groups and recreation facilities in Royal Park and Princes Park to be upgraded as part of the east-west link project.