Cairns athletes up in arms over Barlow Park plans
THE local athletics fraternity says Cairns will lose its status as a top-tier host city for major track-and-field meets if Barlow Park is taken over exclusively by football codes.
Cairns Regional Council will vote tomorrowwhether to endorse Barlow Park as the site for a 20,000-capacity rectangular stadium, which would force the athletics track to be moved.
Barlow Park emerged as the preferred location for a rectangular stadium after an exhaustive assessment of 20 potential sites throughout the region, but Cairns Athletics wants the council to look elsewhere.
"We fought very hard to get Barlow Park to the standard we've got now; it's wrong that we should be dispossessed of our own home grounds," former Cairns Athletics president Rob Murchie said.
The council has anticipated that relocating the athletics facilities would be "perhaps the most contentious aspect" of transforming Barlow Park into a rectangular stadium.
It would be the first part of the project, and would cost about $6 million of a projected $111 million to deliver the rectangular stadium.
The council says the James Cook University campus at Smithfield could be a suitable new location.
But Mr Murchie fears such an alternative would restrict Cairns's ability to lure high-profile and lucrative athletics events such as the Oceania Athletics Championships, which drew 400 athletes from 25 countries in June.
"If you stick (the track) out at the university, I can tell you events like that are not coming back," he said.
"Smithfield is a long way from the action. I can't see it working."
Cairns Athletics only learnt about Barlow Park emerging as the top pick for a rectangular stadium when it was revealed in The Weekend Post on Saturday, despite the group having a representative on the council's stakeholder committee.
Former president Shane Watson understood the Cairns Showgrounds, across the road from Barlow Park, was a likely site for a stadium.
"At the last meeting with the key stakeholders, that's what they told us," Mr Watson said.
"That would have been the preferred outcome for us, because it would have turned the whole area into a sporting precinct."
The group will meet tonight to discuss the matter.
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Alarmed:Athletes fear that plans to close track and field facilities at Barlow Park will mean Cairns will lose its status as a top-tier host for international and national competitions.