Council buy saves Pride Oval for Rugby League


Brad Ryan on Monday, October 18, 2010 © The Cairns Post

PRIDE Oval is set to be sold to Cairns Regional Council to guarantee its future as a sporting field and free the Northern Pride from an oppressive debt.

During a closed-session meeting last week, Cairns councillors gave “in-principle” approval to the purchase, authorising council officers to negotiate a price with the Pride.

The ground is also the home of CDRL club Kangaroos, which has several hundred junior and senior players.

Pride CEO John Moore said the Pride bought the ground in 2008, when it was on the market, to prevent developers buying it and robbing the area of the much-needed sports facility.

“It’s costing us, and it has done for about two years now, about $19,000 a month and that’s a terrible drag,” Mr Moore said.

“Most football clubs are supported by a gaming club, but we are a football club supporting a gaming club and it’s a drain on the finances of the Northern Pride and, frankly, we can’t keep meeting it.

“This is an enormous relief because at any time the bank have the right to come in and say ‘we want our money’, and we couldn’t give it to them.

“It would have been a major disappointment had it been sold off and filled up with units.”

un free: Kangaroos juniors Sam Ballani, Sione Koka and Luke Milgate enjoy their run at the weekend knowing the club won't be turfed out of their home ground. Picture: JAKE NOWAKOWSKI

Run free: Kangaroos juniors Sam Ballani, Sione Koka and Luke Milgate enjoy their run at the weekend knowing the club won’t be turfed out of their home ground. Picture: JAKE NOWAKOWSKI

A property title search shows the ground was sold for $1,850,000 in 2008, but Deputy Mayor and sports committee chair Margaret Cochrane said it was not known how much the council would pay.

“I haven’t heard any figures,” she said.

“But I think it’s important to council to get in there and make sure we can secure it as a much-needed sporting facility, and also to secure Pride’s future, and keep it for the Kangaroos and their hundreds of junior players,” Cr Cochrane said.

The council could also negotiate to purchase a portion of the site owned by the ATSI Youth Welfare Corporation, or extend an arrangement between it and the rugby clubs.

Mr Moore said the economic downturn had sunk the club’s original intentions to expand the clubhouse and develop a profitable sporting precinct.

“The global financial crisis struck and those plans went out the window,” Mr Moore said.

In June, the council approved an application from the Pride to rezone the ground to allow for residential development, a move to boost its value to free the club’s backers from loan guarantees. Lenders had previously been unwilling to cover the full loan amount without more than $800,000 in guarantees.

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