The $2 million Bellevue Oval sports grandstand at the University of New England has been officially opened.
The opening became the curtain raiser for last Saturday’s New England Rugby Union Grand Final between UNE’s St Albert’s College and the Armidale Blues, which St Albert’s won 37 to 12.
UNE’s Vice-Chancellor and CEO, Professor Alan Pettigrew, who opened the grandstand with the Chancellor, Dr Richard Torbay, alongside a parade of parliamentarians including the Federal Member for New England, Tony Windsor, Senator Barnaby Joyce, and Christine Robertson MLC, said the state-of-the-art facility had been made possible through Federal Government funding heavily supplemented by generous backing and support from UNE.
Professor Pettigrew said the new facility recognised “the important role of Sport UNE in providing first-class sporting facilities not only for the University’s students, but also for the people of Armidale and the New England region”.
“More broadly, it recognises the University’s continuing commitment to providing its students with a rich educational experience while contributing to the life of the community,” he said.
Dr Torbay acknowledged the hard work and initiative of those involved in making the new facility a reality, and praised the efforts of the staff of Sport UNE – in particular its Executive Director, Mr David Schmude, and the President of its Management Committee, Mr Gerard ‘Moose’ Stephens.
Dr Torbay also acknowledged the efforts Mr Richard Croft, as President of New England Rugby Union Association, Mr Terry Farrell for “his work on the grounds”, and “hard-working staff from the University generally”.
“I have a very strong interest in making strong linkages between this University and the broader community,” Dr Torbay said, adding: “This new grandstand will provide wonderful opportunities for those sorts of collaborations. It’s a tremendous asset to the University and to the town.”
The new complex includes two team change rooms, a referee’s change room and amenities, a first-aid room, a club house, bar and kiosk, an electronic scoreboard, disabled access, and public toilets.
Mr Schmude said the new complex would increase the interest in – and the opportunity for – bigger and more important games out of Sport UNE. “Bellevue Oval is host to around 15,000 visitors a year, and with this facility the numbers are sure to increase,” he said.
“The field has traditionally been the home ground of two of the University’s Rugby teams: St Albert’s College and Robb College,” Mr Schmude explained. ” ln addition to Rugby Union, this new UNE facility will also be host to Rugby League and soccer matches.”THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here, taken at the opening of the grandstand, expands to show (from left) Senator Barnaby Joyce, Tony Windsor MP, Professor Alan Pettigrew, Dr Richard Torbay, David Schmude, Steve Widders, Christine Robertson MLA, and Gerard Stephens.