The final hurdle to developing a multi-use indoor sporting facility within the existing Albany Agriculture Society has been cleared after the allocation of State Government funding. Great Southern Regional Cricket Board’s application for a $99,967 small grant from the Community Sporting and Recreation Facilities Fund was among 13 grants announced last week. The project will mean the pavilion’s 1800sqm of floor space will be covered with artificial turf and developed to accommodate five cricket nets at one end and soccer fields at the other. The funding adds to an equal contribution from the City of Albany, a $60,000 commitment from GSRCB, $30,000 from the Albany and Districts Cricket Association, and $10,000 from the Great Southern Soccer Association. GSRCB chariman Greg Stocks said discussions between the board and AAS about the development grew serious 18 months ago. He said AAS president Rob Wright had the idea “on his radar from the time the building was erected” about five years ago. “Someone had to take the first bite of the cherry and come up with $100,000 and my board backed me in when it was raised at a board meeting,” he said. “We’ve got money in the bank, which is supposed to be for development so we’re going to use that money, then senior and junior cricket kicked in and then soccer kicked in $10,000. “We then had something to go to Rob with and say ‘here’s the concept, would you back us in if we now go to the City and the State Government?’ and he did.” Mr Stocks said the facility would be a big boost for cricket development because coaching could happen year round, and indoor cricket could be held in Albany for the first time in about 15 years. “For elite cricketers coming through the pathway, there will be the opportunity to coach yearround, which is really important,” he said. “In the past, indoor cricket was very strong and there was a spin-off out of that. “There are also other uses for this shed that we will discover along the way.” Mr Wright said there was already talk from several groups interested in using the pavilion, which he described as underused in its current capacity. “There is an interest already,” he said. “All the major sporting groups are interested — soccer is huge here and they need an indoor facility just to do their basic training. It’s the little ones that we’ll be able to bring through, that’s where this will be a winner because they can come in out of the weather — especially the wind. “The little ones train with lighter balls and you can’t train with that sort of stuff outside.” He said the facility would be able to cater for “overflow” which Albany Leisure and Aquatic Centre cannot, including for its over-50 programs. He said ALAC “just cannot cope with the demand” because they don’t have the “time or space.” “This is a facility built for the community, for the AAS to be able to hold its functions in, but it hasn’t been used day-in, day-out,” he said. “The tennis we’ve got in one of the pavilions now has coaching in it all day and into the night, that’s what we want to see here. “It’s a massive community asset and from the AAS’s perspective it puts us in a situation where we can manage it and earn a revenue and that gives us longevity and continuity.” Work to convert the pavilion into the indoor sporting facility is expected to be carried out next March. Initial concept plans show retractable netting curtains under tension will divide the pavilion into smaller spaces, and that plan will be fine-tuned in the coming months. It is expected that the City will help facilitate a booking system, while the AAS will manage all other aspects of its operation. Events that already use the facility, such as the Albany Agricultural Show and the Albany Show and Shine, are not expected to be interrupted by changes to the venue. Albany MLA Rebecca Stephens said it was vital that community sports clubs had access to quality facilities. “I am thrilled that Great Southern Regional Cricket Board put themselves forward and have been successful,” she said. “The multi-purpose facility will not only provide an indoor facility for cricket but will provide a much-needed indoor facility for other sporting codes.” Albany mayor Dennis Wellington said safe and accessible recreation facilities that were available all year round were “incredibly valuable to the City”. “The multi-purpose facility will appeal to a wide section of our sporting community as well as provide an overflow for some of the existing Albany Leisure and Aquatic Centre programs,” he said. Albany City Kart Club was also awarded a $12,318 grant to upgrade safety lighting in the same funding announcement.