THE Victorian Country Track and Field Championships are returning to Bendigo a year earlier than expected in 2019 on what will be an upgraded athletics track.
The La Trobe University Bendigo Athletics Complex has been confirmed as the host of next year’s country championships, with the announcement continuing what has been a big week for Athletics Bendigo that began on Saturday with funding for new lights at its Flora Hill facility.
Bendigo had been scheduled to next host the Victorian Country Track and Field Championships in 2020, but it has been brought forward to next year on what will be a bumper three days of sport in the city.
The country championships, which are expected to feature about 750 athletes, will be held on January 26, 27 and 28 – the same three days as next year’s annual Bendigo Junior Classic basketball tournament, which attracts thousands to the city.
“Having the country championships here normally attracts about 750 athletes and a lot of additional people watching as well,” Athletics Bendigo general manager Craig Green said on Wednesday.
“We weren’t expecting to get the chance to host them again until 2020, so it has come a year early and will be fantastic with the redeveloped track.”
Works on a $900,000 upgrade of the Flora Hill track are scheduled to begin on Thursday. The entire track will be re-surfaced for the first time since the complex was opened in 1999, with the project expected to take about eight weeks.
Thursday’s start of the track re-surfacing follows the announcement last weekend of funding for new lighting at the complex.
The lighting project, which may not begin until the 2019-20 season, will be jointly funded by the City of Greater Bendigo ($179,000), State Government ($100,000) and Athletics Bendigo ($35,000).
Once the lights are installed Green expects the complex to be a facility that can be used 12 months of the year.
“This is about the only outdoor venue in the region without lights,” Green said.
“Every football ground, soccer ground, netball court, the Tom Flood Sports Centre all have lights, which is something we’ve been waiting a long time for.
“Without lights the use of the facility has been really restricted, so this is something that we really need.”
Green says that the addition of lights to the athletics complex will open the door to the potential for more major events being attracted to the city, while also benefiting local athletes.
“In recent times we have seen state events like the little athletics multi championships virtually ruined by 38-plus degree weather in the hot summer,” Green said.
“Having lights provides the flexibility to hold events like this, as well as Bendigo Little Athletics and Bendigo Region Athletics away from the hot parts of the day.”
Meanwhile, the board of Athletics Bendigo is in the process of seeking feedback from its stakeholders on other capital expenditure programs that could be completed to further improve the facility.