Below is my story of the steps taken to upgrade the oval entrance. I would like to thank all of those who have helped out making this possible. It is a community facility which we can all be proud of. It is an example of what can be done by so many for the benefit of the town and it's people. Shane Snell May, 2016.
In 2009, as President of the Imperial Football Club I raised the issue of safety, efficiency and aesthetics in regard to the entrance to our home ground, Johnstone Park. Little did I realise at the time where this would end up! The committee decided to look into some options for a safer two-way entrance, with an improved appearance. At the time, we were using an unattractive old corrugated iron ticket booth, it didn't even have a floor! The entrance would allow one vehicle in or out at a time and the access gates were crooked and looked terrible.
Johnstone Park Oval Entrance deserved better..........
Fortunately, my employment allows me to travel the state and I took notice of various sporting ground entrances of other towns, in my own time of course! This impressed me somewhat and I commenced a photo collection. I collated these, created a multi-media display and presented this to a council delegation held at the club rooms in late 2009. It wasn't a name and shame exercise but more of town pride and being a rural city with our oval entrance on the main road we felt we should present an argument accordingly.
Angaston Oval Entrance was the benchmark
Council agreed something needed to be done. I had designed some options of two way entrances with feature walls, along with an alternate slip lane idea which snaked its way back through the native Mallee scrub. Council at that point in time were to embark on an Adelaide Road study with Department of Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI). It was decided Council would place this issue in the scope of works for the road study to consider.
While the study took place I had put together some ideas on what to build for the entrance to make a statement. At several of the oval entrances I'd seen there was some form of overhead arch which looked appealing. On one occasion while calling in to One Tree Hill I notice an archway in the form of steel and lettering welded into it with the name of the park. This looked a possible option. Through my business dealings with Quentin Moore of Moore Group he mentioned out of the blue that he had possession of the former original bridge arch which was displayed at the old lookout on Lookout Drive, Murray Bridge. It somehow became his property out of the purchase of the former council depot on Thomas Street. One day the penny dropped with me and thought it would be an ideal show piece to restore for the community and serve a purpose at the oval. I approached Quentin with this idea to which he supported whole heartedly, to the point of throwing much need assistance behind the whole project. The arch was in bad condition with dents, damaged lattice and the heavy supports were full of concrete from the days it was anchored into the ground at the lookout. Once we had a plan to use the arch, it became obvious we needed to dress it appropriately with Murray Bridge Cliff rock stone, the same stone used at either ends of the old road traffic bridge over 100 years ago. At this point I had discussions with Steven Mobbs of Mobbs Constructions and Rob Frazer, well respected local engineer. From here we put together a design, Rob prepared the necessary data and we submitted our application to council. I do recall a site meeting with RCMB officer Malcolm Downie who loved the concept but doubted the ability to get the job down! This spurred me on more! Malcolm and I had a great relationship throughout this and he was always a willing agent from Council.
Meanwhile, after a lengthy period of time (approximately 18 months) the study had taken place but for some reason the Johnstone Park entrance was omitted from the study, so we were back to square one. At this point our development application and been approved. In its wisdom, council through Malcolm had allocated some funds to commence site works which included a re-alignment of the entrance approximately 6.0 metres to the west, building up the area and installation of a larger drainage pipe. The funds allowed for footings for the walls and stone pillars, a ticket booth concrete slab and purchase of some besser blocks for our volunteers to lay for the side walls. This work was completed by the end of June, 2013. The council guys lead by Trevor Ross did a great job and were always accommodating.
Our next step was to construct the arch. Moore Engineering loaded and floated it to Darryl Wrights Business, Murray Machining and Sheds. His employees restored the arch by re-welding rivets and lattice straps, as well as knocking it back into shape. Employee Andrew Martin and I jack hammered out the concrete from the heavy supports as best as possible. From here, Moore Engineering once again floated it to Lower Murray Grit Blasting for sand blasting and it was coated with Organic Zinc paint. Murray Machining and Sheds also prepared steel columns to support the arch. The arch was transported to site along with the columns by Nigel Marsh, and was erected by Steve Mobbs, Nigel and myself. So we had an arch to drive through now, along with a newly erected ticket booth! The booth was built from Bondor material and supplied by David Daish of Daishsat. It was assembled by employees of Peter and Helen Mumford, Hayden Mumford and Nick Stephens. Fortunately, we had electrical supply at the former ticket booth, so it was a straight forward task for B&L Cox Electrical technicians Clint De Michele and Ryan Edwards to redirect the cables and terminate them into the new booth.
Steven Mobbs had meanwhile placed an order for the stone to construct the pillars around the steel upright supports. He engaged Ashley Scott of Callington to mine and cut the stone blocks as he had strong reputation for work in this field. This process takes quite some time as it has to be mined and cut, and after about six months we had some delivered. The purchase of the stone was quite expensive, around $9,000.00 in total. An “RCMB Community grant” application for $3,100.00 was successful and the remainder was funded by the Imperial Football Club. These funds came mainly from Thursday night BBQ sales run by Barry Merritt, Darryl Wright and Andrew Martin. Steven Mobbs then employed Bob Dreschler and the two would spend in excess of a week laying the cliff rock stone blocks. The pillars are an integral piece of the story and the boys did a nice job of laying them. Colin Sontag volunteered to lay the besser blocks for the wing walls. As per the design, these were to be core filled with concrete and steel reinforcement. Unfortunately, while waiting to core fill these a high wind event on the labour day holiday in October 2013 toppled both walls! Luckily Whity's Earthworks assisted in a time of need to clean up the mess and dispose of the damaged material. It was now back to the drawing board for the walls! The project sat idle as funds from the club had dried up. Cr Tyson Matthew had called for the community for input of ideas for the town approach. I responded with our project laying idle and he assisted with some funds from the “Small Wins” budget to purchase the remaining besser blocks. This covered the purchase and re-construction of the side walls with a render and texture coat. The walls were built on Australia Day this year (2016), a group of about 10 footballers helped to core fill (yes we were onto it quicker!) and treated with render and texture coat soon after.
With the 50th year of Johnstone Park looming it was decided to commit to completing the project to coincide with the commemoration day planned on April 30. I approached council with our intentions and requested some road seal treatment to enhance the project and control the dust and mud. Council through Andrew Baltensperger, Simon Bradley and Matt James made this happen and we then applied the finishing touches of lettering and access gates. Once again, Moore Engineering and Daishsat came to the party with the lettering and the gates respectively. Greg Bell of Bell Imperial Cabinets assisted to put the lettering into a special jig so the words could line up evenly. The laser cut lettering, supplied by Moore Engineering required a lot of work to weld rods on each letter, and this was also donated by Quentin. Trevor Heading, Nathan Daish and David Daish completed the construction of the gates and they were installed with the lettering on April 23, 2016. The gates have a logo inserted with the letters JP, representing Johnstone Park. These gates were also time consuming and many thanks go to David Daish and his guys.Steven Mobbs and myself installed the lettering on April 23rd, thus signalling the completion of the project along with a few cold beers!
Johnstone Park Oval Entrance got better.........
This would complete the project which has enhanced the town entrance, the entrance to Johnstone Park and now provides a safe and efficient means of entry on busy match days. I have enjoyed coordinating the project and have been overwhelmed with the support of so many. The RC of MB provided fantastic support and were always available to discuss issues as they arose. This is proof in the pudding that you can achieve these types of projects through community engagement. Fortunately, the people I worked with on this are proud of the town in which they live. I wish to thank all of those who have assisted making this an icon for many years to come.
Shane Snell – Johnstone Park Entrance Project Co-ordinator