Off to a running start

Young athletes Skye Wouters and Harrison Copley try out the new athletics track 397606 Pictures: STEWART CHAMBERS

Budding athletic stars in Pakenham now have a brand-new training ground to strengthen their skills, with Cardinia Shire Council officially opening the first stage of a new regional athletics facility at IYU Recreation Reserve on Henry Road in Pakenham.

The first stage of the project included a new 400-metre athletics running track with a 10-lane straight, facilities for long jump, triple jump, pole vault, high jump, javelin, shot put, discus and steeplechase, as well as lighting and a car park.

Fully funded by the council, the works followed on from the earlier construction of the IYU Recreation Reserve, which opened in 2017, which included a number of soccer and recreation facilities, such as construction of a full-sized senior soccer field, a pavilion, and all-weather synthetic soccer pitch, a playground and a basketball half-court, and asphalting of the road and car park, including footpaths and drainage.

The second stage of the project would include a sports pavilion, with a proposed design currently underway.

As part of a partnership between South East Water and the council, a new drinking fountain has been installed to help reduce waste and ensure facility users and visitors have access to free and safe drinking water.

Cardinia Shire mayor Jack Kowarzik said projects like this were a great showcase of the powers of collaboration.

“I’d like to thank Athletics Victoria, Pakenham Little Athletics Club, Casey Cardinia Masters, Casey Cardinia Athletics Club, and South East Water for working collaboratively with council,” he said.

“Sport is a huge part of Aussie culture, and Cardinia Shire is one of the fastest growing areas in the state, so to be able to provide our growing community with new sporting facilities is a great thing.

“Not only will the new track and field benefit local athletics clubs here in Pakenham, but also the wider community who can use it all year-round.”

Cr Kowarzik said the new drinking fountain joined a number of other accessible fountains installed at recreation facilities and reserves in Nar Nar Goon, Lang Lang and Pakenham.

“This partnership project is a resourceful and practical way of positively contributing to waste reduction efforts and promoting healthy hydration habits out in our community,” he said.

“Part of a larger project to map the locations of existing fountains and ensure people know where to go in times of heat waves, homelessness or when exercising, it’s one piece of the puzzle in progressing our top wellbeing priorities from the Cardinia Shire Liveability Plan.”

South East Water strategy and stakeholder general manager Karen Lau said they were excited to support the Pakenham community to stay active and healthy.

“By choosing to refill your water bottle at a Choose Tap fountain, you’re also helping to protect our environment by reducing the millions of single-use plastic bottles that end up in landfill or our waterways,” she said.

Central Ward councillor Collin Ross said he was enthusiastic about the future of athletics in Cardinia.

“It’s especially pleasing to be here for such a happy occasion since the burglary of the Little Athletics Club’s equipment from their club rooms earlier this year was a bitter note for everyone involved, on what should have been an exciting time,” he said.

“Moving to a premier regional facility has been a boon for raising interest in membership with the club.

“I’m looking forward to seeing a future athletics Olympian originate from our shire.”