Gunnedah Showground will receive a $1.5 million overhaul thanks to the Stronger Country Communities Fund.
Gunnedah Shire Council will use the funds to deliver two major projects in the showground complex, which will benefit its many users.
More than $700,000 has been allocated to develop the equine aspect of the showground, and more than $800,000 has been allocated to upgrade the grounds, grandstand and Gunnedah Kennel Club amenities block.
The first project encompasses a new custom-designed soft-fall/rodeo ring, permanent cattle yards, equestrian manure pit, new public address system and new power poles and lighting towers with adjustable lights to increase lighting during night events.
The second project will include installation of arena lighting to facilitate larger night events and the installation of an accessible toilet/shower block to accommodate current and future usage. Funding will also cover the construction of six shaded, picnic shelters and the replacement of grandstand seating with portable, accessible and tiered grandstand seating.
Accessible pathways will also be constructed at the rear of the Gunnedah Gymnastics Centre and the Kennel Club amenities block will be upgraded.
Gunnedah shire mayor Jamie Chaffey welcomed the much-needed funding.
“The showground has been starved of money for not only upgrades but maintenance,” he said.
Cr Chaffey said the council’s Operational Plan identified the showground and certain areas of the complex as “unfunded priorities for upgrade”.
Things have been done over years but nothing major for the showground has been done since the Lyle Griffiths Pavilion, which was in the 1970s.Rob Witts, Gunnedah Show Society
He said during community consultation in 2016, residents had emphasised the importance of the showground complex and over the last two years, the council had been working with its user groups to “identify and prioritise areas requiring upgrades” and review the showground master plan from 2014.
“While its not enough funds to deliver the full master plan, it’s a good starting point for redevelopment to commence for the master plan,” he said.
Cr Chaffey said the new flow of funds would make the town more attractive to vendors and visitors.
“We’re focused on bringing more visitors into town and events, and improving facilities will go a long way to doing that,” he said.
Gunnedah Show Society president and Showground Committee of Management member Rob Witts said the funding would “start to bring Gunnedah Showground into the 21st century”.
“Things have been done over years but nothing major for the showground has been done since the Lyle Griffiths Pavilion, which was in the 1970s,” he said.
“The way it has been, we’ve had to hire lights; we haven’t been able to hold as many events at night because of the lighting [and] the portable grandstands were deemed unsafe. They’re only allowed to be 30 degrees steep and they are 36 degrees.”
It’s well overdue, and the show society is so committed and works so hard to get events into the showground and it’s so nice for them that their hard work is paying off.Stacey Cooke, Gunnedah Chamber of Commerce
“This year it’s been demonstrated that the showground is more than just an equine venue by holding the CMCA at the moment and eiMex later on and the swap meets,” he said.
“Already this year to come we have another two events from out of the district and they did say if we were able to get better facilities it may attract them to come in future.
“I think that’s helped in getting the money – showing its viability and showing that it is a valuable asset for the town of Gunnedah.”
Gunnedah and District Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Stacey Cooke said the announcement was a “win-win” for the town.
“It’s a great thing for the town and the community and also businesses,” she said.
“Upgrading the grounds will attract more vendors, which in turn will attract more events, which attracts more visitors, meaning they’re spending more money in our shops, so it’s a win-win.”
Mrs Cooke said she had lived in Gunnedah since she was 11 and the showground has “always looked the same”.
“It will be nice to see a face lift,” she said.
“It’s well overdue, and the show society is so committed and works so hard to get events into the showground and it’s so nice for them that their hard work is paying off.”
Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson said it would be an “awesome development” for Gunnedah Showground.
“It’s such an important amenity and I will continue to do everything I can to further upgrade it for the community,” he said.