A length of red ribbon cut simultaneously by four pairs of matt-silver scissors marked the official opening of the Foster Showgrounds’ almost entirely rebuilt indoor sports and activity stadium on Friday July 15, 2022.
Among those wielding the scissors were Victorian Minister for Water, Regional Development, and Equality Harriet Shing, South Gippsland Shire Mayor Mohya Davies, and the “Duo of Debs”, also known as Deb Allott and Deb Eales.
President and secretary respectively of the Foster Showgrounds Community Asset Committee, Deborah A and Debra E are considered to be largely responsible for having the stadium project shovel-ready when the chance of State funding came up.
On ribbon snipping and/or holding duty as well that day were South Gippsland Shire chief executive officer Kerryn Ellis, Deputy Mayor Nathan Hersey, Cr Mick Felton, and Gippsland South MLA Danny O’Brien.
On hand to witness the opening ceremony were life members and stalwart supporters of the many community groups and organisations associated with the Foster Showgrounds and the stadium.
These included past and present members of the Foster Showgrounds Community Asset Committee, formerly called the Foster Showgrounds Committee, the Foster Basketball Association, the Foster Football Netball Club, the Foster and District Agricultural Society Inc., South Gippsland Badminton Association, the University of the Third Age, and the Hard Work Cafe among others.
Also in attendance were Jarrod Moss from Basketball Victoria, and Netball Victoria Eastern Region’s Judi Buhgdiar.
Student leaders from Foster Secondary College and Foster Primary School were present at the opening ceremony, too.
Shire CEO Ms Ellis formally welcomed the gathering, including “all community representatives and stadium users” before inviting Ms Shing to speak.
“This is a development that is really going to make sure that the best possible indoor sports and community facility is in Foster,” Ms Shing said.
“The last time I was here was during the Foster Show as the sponsor of the donkey classes!” she said with a smile.
“This stadium will encourage even more people to participate in a range of sporting activities as well as being available to other users.
“This upgraded facility is for everyone to use all year around, particularly those women and girls who want to participate in sports, with its fit-for-purpose features that the whole community can enjoy well into the 21st century,” Ms Shing said.
“Here are state grants working in partnership with local councils, with $253,000 from the South Gippsland Shire and $2.26 million from the Government, and I’m so glad to see the stadium up and it being loved!”
Mayor Davies said she wanted to “acknowledge the efforts of the elders in our community” and how they have combined with present-day local public spirit and two tiers of government to “bring this level of facility to our area.
“A lot of people in our community have been heavily involved in developing the Foster Showgrounds over a long period of time and their pride in its presentation is obvious,” she said.
“The last couple of years have shown just how important it is to keep the community connected, and sport does that.
“This stadium is a whole-of-life facility; when I was growing up I played basketball in the original stadium built in the 1950s, I watched my own family play basketball, my husband plays badminton now, and I went to the gym here this morning!” Mayor Davies said.
“Congratulations Foster and thank you to the Foster Showgrounds Community Asset Committee, especially the ‘Duo of Debs’, for the countless hours of work to ensure this project was ready to apply for the Victorian COVID-19 recovery stimulus program.”
Mayor Davies also paid tribute to Loft Architects, Becon Constructions, and shire staff, including building assets planner Glen Wearne, who was on hand to conduct guided tours of the new Foster stadium, post-opening.
The final speaker was Ms Allott, who said “I would like to thank everyone, including the quite a few life members of organisations associated with the Foster Showgrounds and the Foster stadium who are here today.
“Twelve years ago or more we decided an upgrade of the stadium’s toilets and changerooms was needed, and so we did a feasibility study, and looked into funding, and then COVID came along …
“My thanks also go to Deb Eales for the countless hours, and I’m talking about hundreds of hours, she put in to making sure we were ready to go when the COVID support funding became available,” she said.
“We had 12 weeks to get our application in, and we did it, and now all we have to do is get a new sign for the front!” The members of Foster’s South Gippsland Hospital Auxiliary served afternoon tea in the foyer of the Foster stadium at the conclusion of the opening ceremony.