“How much did those shoes cost you?”
“I don’t know yet.”
Back in the 80s I was attending a training course and the presenter told a story about someone at a Total Quality Management function (remember TQM?). His colleague was admiring his sharp dress sense, asked about his shoes and received an enigmatic reply. The point being, there’s more to something’s cost than what you pay for it. But I digress.
Build it and they will come
Move forward a couple of decades and pull on your footy boots. To quote an ALP senator at the time:
‘The upcoming official opening of the Kingston Twin Ovals signals the beginning of an exciting new chapter in the development of sports facilities in Kingston.’
This was back on 10 June 2011 when the Rudd government was doing a good job keeping Australia from following most of the world into the Great Recession (which we like to call the Global Financial Crisis).
In case you aren’t from ’round here, Twin Ovals is a Australian Rules Football ground and a Cricket Ground located near the Kingborough Sports Centre. They are very well constructed grounds that are maintained to a high standard. Between the grounds is a pavilion which includes the cricket scorers box.
So what did Twin Ovals cost? We don’t know yet. According to the LGAT Newsletter:
‘The project received almost $4 million from the Federal Government’s economic stimulus package, $1.6 million from the State Government, and $500,000 from the AFL. The remaining $1.6 million in funding was provided by the Kingborough Council.’
Each year a bit more gets spent on various capital projects, from Council (either directly or through community grants) and from the Tasmanian Government. Then there’s the operating costs. To keep a first class AFL ground and a first class cricket ground match-ready isn’t cheap and that all comes from Council.
If you want an idea of the cost of recreation facilities it’s in the Annual Plan, Kingborough spends around $3M a year on recreation and reserves of which around $510 000 is on maintaining the sports precinct, which includes Twin Ovals.
The State Government put in another $199 000 for grandstands in May 2015 and promise that the same again is on its way.
‘Stage two includes the completion of coaches boxes, a concrete area fit for corporate marquees and improved lighting on the juniors’ ground, and is expected to be completed by the end of this year.
The second stage also includes $60,000 for concept plans for a major grandstand will provide more AFL-standard facilities.’
Now here’s the kicker
This Wednesday, 31 March 2016, there’s a proposal for the Kingborough Council to pay to replace one of the electronic scoreboards at the ovals, The two boards cost $47 636 (plus installation) in 2011 and they’ve been faulty ever since. The proposal is for Council to pay $40 000, together with $30 000 from the Kingborough Tigers football club, to replace the AFL scoreboard.
How much money should Council spend on Twin Ovals? The report in the Council agenda says:
5.3 Council’s contribution of $40,000 can be accommodated from savings in the 2015/16 Capital Works budget, primarily associated with the deferring of the project to rehabilitate Beach Road Margate. A further report will be submitted to the next Council meeting by the Executive Manager Engineering Services outlining the proposed changes to the current (2016/16) budget, due to the deferral of the Beach Road, Margate Construction.
5.4 An amount of $25,000 had initially been listed in the Draft Capital Works budget for 2016/17 for the scoreboard replacement. This amount could be reallocated to an alternate project if Council was to accept the proposition from the Tigers Football Club and commit funds from the current financial year.
Don’t be so reckless
This raises some issues for me. I think Council should spend money responsibly. Part of this process means that we budget, weighing the importance of competing items, their contribution to our strategic plan, and the available funds. On the face of it, the report is recommending that we spend $40 000 that is not budgeted in 2015/16 and in return we don’t spend $25 000 planned to be budgeted for 2016/17. I don’t recall any mention of the scoreboards when we were determining the 2015/16 budget; this project is queue jumping.
The reason for the urgency is the National AFL Underage Carnival:
5.1 The Tigers Football Club has offered to put $30,000 towards the cost of replacing the
scoreboard on the condition that Council’s contribution is provided in the current
financial year to enable the unit to be ordered and installed in time for the National AFL
Underage Carnival matches to be held in June.
This makes me wonder how long the club knew the Underage Carnival was coming. They knew the scoreboard has been faulty for nearly 5 years, and yet only ask for its replacement with a couple of months to go. It feels like the urgency is self-induced.
Strategy and tactics
The report refers to the strategic plan:
Strategy 1.3.2 Support increased participation in physical activities, through the planning, delivery and advocacy of appropriate recreation and sporting services and facilities.
So part of the decision is a judgement on how much an AFL scoreboard at Twin Ovals contributes to supporting increased participation in physical activity for people in our municipality.
The Kingborough Council Sport and Recreation Facility Strategy 2013 lists the top 10 physical activities participated in by Tasmanians in 2010.
|RANK||ACTIVITY||2010 PARTICIPATION RATE%||2009 PARTICIPATION RATE|
|1||Walking (other than Bushwalking)||38.4%||41.4%|
|8||Australian Rules Football||4.4%||5.3%|
Now I don’t know whether there’s been a resurgence of AFL in recent years, but six years ago (interestingly just before Twin Ovals was built) only 4.4% of the population was playing and numbers seemed be be dropping.
The report identifies risks:
7.1 The continual problems with the existing AFL scoreboard are a source of embarrassment to both the Tigers Football Club as the anchor tenant at the ground and to Council.
7.2 There is a risk that the reputation of the Twin Ovals as a high quality facility will be compromised if the scoreboard problems are not addressed. This may result in a loss of bookings for the facility, particularly for major events that have the potential to bring in revenue for Council.
Embarrassment I can cope with. Reputational risk is more difficult to judge. I don’t know what the current and forecast bookings are for the AFL ground, but these are things I’ll be asking about at the meeting.
My underlying concerns are that a lot of money has been invested in Twin Ovals by the Federal Government, the Tasmanian Government and Kingborough Council. I’m not convinced that the money that the Council is spending is good value.
We’re told that the ground can’t attract the big matches until it has proper grandstands and all sorts of other bells and whistles. The ground is in direct competition for major events with Blundstone Arena at Bellerive, Aurora Stadium in Launceston, North Hobart Oval, King George V in Glenorchy. Blundstone Arena and Aurora Stadium have had much more money invested in them, are closer to the CBD of Hobart and Launceston, and have a higher public profile.
Do big matches increase participation in physical activity? The only justification cited for attracting them is the somewhat intangible economic activity that comes with them.
Conclusions, I have few. I know I’ll be asking lots of questions on Wednesday night and listening very carefully to the answers and the debate before I cast my vote.
If any of this interests you or you have an opinion, don’t hesitate to contact me, or leave a comment, or better still come to the meeting (or at least listen to the recording online). After all, we’re spending your money.
[I note that the ABC has picked up this story, with a quote from the Mayor. Also the ABC 936 News on Tuesday 29 March had a sound bite from the Tigers management.]
[Edit 1 April 2016 (No, it’s not a joke)
The initial motion failed:
That the offer from the Kingborough Tigers Football Club of a $30,000 contribution towards the replacement of the AFL scoreboard at the Twin Ovals with an LED Gen2 Solid Display System be accepted, with Council’s contribution of $40,000 to be sourced from savings in the 2015/16 Capital Works budget.
The resolution passed on the night was:
That the Kingborough Tigers Football Club be advised that Council will consider its request for a financial contribution towards a new scoreboard as part of its 2016/17 budget deliberations.