By Rowan Forster
The first stage of the Pakenham Football Club’s long-awaited overhaul – which includes the construction of new, unisex change rooms – has been secured through a $500,000 federal grant.
Latrobe MP Jason Wood in late December announced that the Lions would receive half-a-million dollars from the government’s grassroots infrastructure cash pile.
For the club, which had revealed that girls were being inadvertently exposed in change rooms and forced to dress in cars and behind trees, it is a significant breakthrough.
The backing came six months after Mr Wood first attended the Toomuc Reserve pavilion, shocked by the club’s lacking facilities.
“This began in July with my visit to the club when the female netball players were waiting for 15 minutes in the pouring rain, waiting for the male players to finish in the change rooms,” he said.
“The facilities were totally unacceptable.
“It’s a great step, but there’s still a lot more work to be done for the other clubs around Latrobe.”
Due to the meteoric rise of women’s football across the state, the Pakenham Lions are taking on two additional female teams in 2019 –which will further straining the club’s ancient infrastructure.
Pakenham Football Club senior president Travis Hamilton has been outspoken about the club’s outdated facilities – citing safety concerns for young female players.
He was ecstatic when he learned of the funding commitment.
“It has been a long time in the making, so it’s a massive relief,” he said.
“It was always a stress for the hardworking committee, especially with the women.
“They were left behind with the initial design of the building, but now we can pick up the pace and get the ball rolling.”
Mr Hamilton said the club is still pursuing further funding to guarantee the completion of all phases.
The Pakenham Junior Football Club’s current pavilion was developed about 20 years ago.
It was first constructed when the club reached a milestone 100 players.
The Lions are hopeful to have the new change rooms up and running in 2020.