ST MARYS could be on track to host future world champions now that a campaign for an all-weather synthetic athletics venue is hitting full speed.
Little Athletics outer west metropolitan zone co-ordinator Jeff Baxter has upped the ante on his campaign, working closely with Penrith Council for a synthetic track for the seven clubs in the Penrith local government area.
‘‘We don’t have one,’’ he said.
‘‘The council has raised no objection so far. All we need to do is pick a location and find funding.’’
Mr Baxter has the support of Penrith councillor John Thain, who developed an online petition calling on the council to commit itself to funding an all-weather track.
More than 80 signatures were received in the first four days after it was set up a week ago.
‘‘All Little Athletics centres would use the track,’’ Cr Thain said. ‘‘The next step is to approach the community.’’
The estimated cost — $1.5 million to $3 million — would require funding help from the state and/or federal government.
Little Athletics meets now are called off in bad weather.
‘‘It makes it slippery for jumpers and hurdlers and also deteriorates the track further,’’ Mr Baxter said.
Blair Oval at St Marys is one of the sites considered, as also are Harold Corr Oval at Werrington and the former Gipps Road tip site at Orchard Hills.
A decision will be made early next year.
‘‘Blair Oval is prone to once-in-a-100 year flooding so we’d have to look at building on higher ground,’’ Mr Baxter said. ‘‘All three sites have their issues.
‘‘We’re waiting on a report about the Gipps Road site before we have a good idea about the locations.’’
The track could be used by the wider community, including schools.
‘‘I know more than a few athletes who train and compete outside the Penrith area because of the facilities,’’ Mr Baxter said.
‘‘It would mean that athletes such as Jake Stein, who’s a world youth champion, could train locally.
‘‘Top coaches who live in Penrith would move there.’’
Mr Baxter said the track would entice children to take up, and remain in, athletics.
‘‘We have quite a number of talented athletes coming through the ranks and it would be great to keep them, instead of losing them to other sports,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, Lindsay MP David Bradbury and federal sports minister Senator Don Farrell were at Blair Oval on Tuesday pledging a re-elected Labor Government will provide $1.5 million to council for the track.
“This new facility would be available for all local athletics groups and schools in the Penrith area and will support the future of this great sporting community,’’ Mr Farrell said.
Go to athleticstrack4penrith
.wufoo.com to sign the petition