Australia's champion NPL club Heidelberg United have been given a $2 million boost through a state government grant to refurbish their Olympic Park precinct, the site of the training venue for athletes at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne.
The project will deliver new sports fields, lighting and a synthetic pitch – improving facilities for men, women and junior players as well as giving the club greater flexibility to train all year.
The announcement comes days after Melbourne Victory revealed they had received $10 million in government funding to establish an academy for juniors and women's teams at Footscray Park.
The Bergers, one-time stalwarts of the old National Soccer League, have become a powerhouse in the NPL Victoria, finishing top of the table last season only to lose the grand final to Bentleigh Greens.
The club from Melbourne's inner north won the Australian champions league for NPL clubs last season, and also reached the FFA Cup quarter-finals in 2015 and 2017 under coach George Katsakis. They are third on the ladder after seven rounds of the NPL Victoria this season.
The upgrade will also include shared paths, fitness circuits and an Aboriginal spiritual walk and gathering place.
The site was a training base for the 1956 Olympics and this project is part of a masterplan developed by Banyule City Council, which is also helping to fund the project with United.
John Lioupas, Heidleberg's secretary, said the masterplan would need about $11 million in funding and the improvements would be made in stages.
''This is a great benefit, not just for this club but for football and the community in the northern suburbs," he said.
''This state government money, $2 million, will go with the $3.1 million allocated by Banyule Council and the $500,000 from the Soltilo Soccer School [established by former Japan international Keisuke Honda] so we are around halfway to having the complete sum needed.
''But the work will be done in stages and improvements can be made as funding is increased. We will also seek support from the federal government.''
A refurbished Olympic Village would help any push the club made to be part of an A-League second division, if the FFA signed off on such a concept.
''We don't like to make big statements or promise things we can't achieve, but if there was a possibility of getting into a second division then improved facilities and infrastructure would help our case,'' Lioupas said.
Michael Lynch, The Age's expert on soccer, has had extensive experience of high level journalism in the UK and Australia. Michael has covered the Socceroos through Asia, Europe and South America in their past three World Cup campaigns. He has also reported on Grands Prix and top class motor sport from Asia and Europe. He has won several national media awards for both sports and industry journalism.
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