Joint ventures could be way of the future

A proposal for ratepayers to jointly fund a $9m sport and convention centre at a Mt Barker school presents an innovative solution to the problem of providing the necessary infrastructure to meet the needs of the town’s rapid growth.
The state-of-the-art centre at St Francis de Sales College would open up opportunities for both the school and the wider community.
For $2.5m, the Mt Barker Council could buy a share in a facility it might otherwise never be able to afford, given the looming list of big-ticket infrastructure items that the district will need over the next decade.
For the Mt Barker community, the new centre would give indoor sports such as basketball room to expand, while also providing the Hills’ regional centre with a space and facilities capable of hosting major indoor events that could attract thousands of visitors.
There is a clear need for more indoor sporting facilities in the town, with the existing Adelaide Hills Recreation Centre stretched to the limits catering for a growing number of junior and senior basketball teams.
In some cases, school aged children are playing late at night on week nights so that enough games can be squeezed in on the two available courts.
Mt Barker also has no indoor space big enough to host major conferences, conventions or trade expos that is equipped with supporting facilities such as a commercial kitchen.
Such a centre, while clearly benefiting the college in providing facilities for its growing student body, could also become a regional centrepiece for the community for both sport and economic development.
However, should the joint-use project go ahead, the council must have a robust management agreement in place to ensure the community gets its fair share of access to the centre in order to reap the benefits.
If it is successful, such shared-use and co-funding arrangements between the council and the private sector, especially schools, are likely to become commonplace as a way of providing the tens of millions of dollars worth of new infrastructure needed for the town while minimising the financial burden on its ratepayers.