Essendon Football Club (EFC) has today outlined a bold vision for the re-development of the iconic Windy Hill precinct. This vision heralds an exciting future for sport and broader community facilities at the precinct and across the City of Moonee Valley.
Activating Windy Hill is identified as a key priority in Moonee Valley City Council’s recently adopted Draft Advocacy Strategy (2022-25), and this exciting new vision brings that priority to life.
It has been developed in consultation with a range of stakeholders including Moonee Valley City Council (MVCC), Essendon District Football League (EDFL), Essendon Cricket Club (ECC), Essendon Bowls Club (EBC), the Australian Football League (AFL), and both State and Federal Governments.
The plans focus on the provision of increased community access to a revitalised Windy Hill precinct, new recreational space, parklands and purpose-built facilities to enhance sport participation in the region (subject to finalising appropriate agreements with relevant user groups, detailed designs, continued community consultation, council endorsement and funding partnerships being secured).
SPORT AND COMMUNITY - IMPROVED FACILITIES FOR ALL
- Windy Hill would become a new premier home for female football in Victoria and the match-day home of the Essendon AFLW, VFLW and VFL teams (subject to the satisfactory relocation of existing tenants)
- Improved facilities for the Essendon Cricket Club (ECC) and Essendon Bowls Club (EBC) at upgraded sites within the municipality (subject to agreement by those clubs, the confirmation of an appropriate site, approval of designs, council planning endorsement and necessary funding commitments being achieved)
- Establishment of a new multi-purpose community sports centre
- New soft-play areas and casual meeting spaces for children, families and local schools
- Creation of new areas of open parklands to deliver recreation spaces for community events
- Refurbished grandstands for improved spectator viewing, new oval lighting, scoreboard, four unisex changerooms and public café facilities
- Reshaping, expansion and resurfacing of the Windy Hill ground in line with elite standards
- Increased training and playing capacity for community football, particularly the 35 community clubs of the Essendon District Football League (EDFL)
- Relocation of the Windy Hill Venue (subject to planning approval) with the opportunity to develop an integrated community hub in its place
WINDY HILL PRECINCT REDEVELOPMENT - STAGE 1
Windy Hill precinct redevelopment would occur in two stages, with the first focused on facilities delivering sporting outcomes from community to professional levels.
Stage 1 of the development would enable Windy Hill to become the new match-day home for the Bombers’ AFLW team (set to enter the competition in 2022) as well as existing VFLW and VFL teams.
Year-round access will be provided for community football as well as opportunities for further integration through AFL talent pathways and other development programs for girls and boys (subject to reaching appropriate agreement and meeting the necessary planning and funding requirements with relevant stakeholders).
To enable this once-in-a-generation opportunity for the community, important improvements will be undertaken across the site, including:
- Four new (unisex) changerooms
- Improved administration offices for the EDFL
- Refurbished match-day social club and function areas
- Installation of new oval lighting and digital scoreboard
- Public café and refurbishment of a number of original grandstands to improve the spectator experience and honour the rich history of the site
- New open and accessible parkland areas will also be developed to support physical recreation and community events across the site
The vision contemplates planning for improved facilities for the Essendon Cricket Club (ECC). Opportunities are currently being explored with ECC, in conjunction with MVCC, to realise a significant opportunity to create a new home for ECC within the municipality on a single site, subject to broad community and stakeholder engagement, detailed planning and funding approvals being achieved.
Should these milestones be achieved, this would deliver contemporary facilities befitting premier cricket use, relieve the current constraints of aged facilities at Windy Hill (including a lack of player and spectator amenity), appropriately recognise the long-standing history and importance to community, and unify ECC at a single site.
As a further significant opportunity for the precinct, during this stage EFC will pursue the relocation of the Windy Hill Venue to a new site (subject to relevant council, planning and regulatory approvals). In its place would provide further capacity for community-related services on site.
WINDY HILL PRECINCT REDEVELOPMENT - STAGE 2
Stage 2 of the vision is focused on further enhancing facilities for the community, including:
- A multi-sport community sports centre, along with new children’s outdoor play areas and other sporting amenities such as a synthetic training track
- Improved and relocated facilities for the Essendon Bowls Club (EBC). Opportunities are being explored with EBC, in conjunction with MVCC, for development of a Bowls ‘super centre’ within the municipality, with synthetic greens sheltered by domes to enable play throughout the year
Realising the full vision is estimated to cost in excess of $50 million, which includes establishing new facilities for ECC and EBC, but excludes costs associated with the relocation of the Windy Hill Venue.
Quote from Paul Brasher (President, EFC)
We are determined to ensure the vision for Windy Hill delivers a sustainable outcome for the entire community and future generations.
At the forefront of our thinking is delivering vastly greater benefits and access for the community than is possible at Windy Hill today.
We are committed to ensuring the people of Moonee Valley feel connected to the precinct, and that the site is used on a far more regular basis than it is now. And, of course, we aspire to deliver a premium venue for girls and women’s football that is unmatched in our state.
Like the Essendon Football Club, both the Essendon Cricket Club and the Essendon Bowls Club have a rich history at Windy Hill, but the current tired and constrained facilities do not do justice to their importance to the community or meet their future needs.
Our ambition is to ensure that the project delivers a far superior outcome for both of those clubs, positioning them to build on their history and strengthen their capacity to serve new generations of participants for decades to come.
On behalf of the Essendon Football Club, I want to extend our thanks for the work completed to date by Moonee Valley Council, particularly incoming Mayor Cr. Samantha Byrne for her immediate support and Cr. Cam Nation in his role as Mayor over the past 12 months, as well as representatives of Essendon Cricket Club (president Simon Tobin), Essendon Bowls Club (president Rob Blachford) and the Essendon District Football League (president Bernie Shinners) for their support of this exciting vision."
Quote from Moonee Valley City Council Mayor Cr. Samantha Byrne
Windy Hill holds a special place in the hearts and minds of many people across Australia, particularly those in Moonee Valley. As part of our long-term vision MV2040, Council identified Windy Hill as a defining element of Essendon’s character, and is committed to advocate for its public activation.
We have continued to progress this commitment, including adopting the ‘Imagine Windy Hill’ Vision document in October 2019. While the Windy Hill grounds have been a prominent sporting location for more than a century, the facilities are tired and a new vision and life for the reserve is needed to recognise the future needs of our local community. It is also a wonderful opportunity to increase access for the growing number of female football players across all age groups, promoting equality in sport for all participants. We are really proud that Windy Hill will become the match-day home of the Essendon AFLW, VFLW and VFL teams.
Council is seeking to partner with key stakeholders to advocate for support and funding to re-invigorate this much-loved historical community space as part of a once-in-a-generation opportunity to revitalise the precinct.
Revitalising Windy Hill is a vision that neither Council nor the Essendon Football Club can achieve alone. By partnering with the Essendon Football Club, AFL, other users of Windy Hill, State and Federal representatives and the local community, we will be able to deliver the best possible outcome for the space.
Improving the condition of facilities at Windy Hill will also address the significant under-supply of multi-purpose spaces in the Essendon neighbourhood, creating benefits for the community beyond sport.
Quote from Moonee Valley City Council (Mayor 2020-21) Cr. Cam Nation
This new vision for Windy Hill presents an exciting opportunity for all levels of government to work in partnership with the Essendon Football Club, AFL, community partners and Moonee Valley City Council, to secure a future for the Windy Hill precinct and to allow the Essendon Bombers’ AFLW side to play at the club’s spiritual home in Essendon where they belong.
Quote from Simon Tobin (president, ECC)
As the original grantee and resident of Windy Hill, Essendon Cricket Club holds the longest association with the precinct, having called it home since the club’s inception in 1872. Since that time, some of the world’s greatest cricketers have played at Windy Hill. As it stands now, however, the facilities require significant improvement to not only meet the needs of ECC, but also the many other sporting groups and broader community of Moonee Valley.
Currently ECC is split across two sites (Windy Hill and Cross Keys Reserve). We are working in good faith with EFC and MVCC to explore all options regarding the redevelopment of Windy Hill, including those which may include the development of an alternative site for ECC.
Quote from Bernie Shinners (chairman, EDFL)
The Essendon District Football League (EDFL) is committed to working constructively with the Essendon Football Club and other major stakeholders on the exciting plans for the rejuvenation of the Windy Hill site. As a rapidly expanding community-based football league covering a significant area of the north-west metro region of Melbourne, the EDFL has a longstanding connection to both the EFC and Windy Hill.
Through this successful partnership, and with the prospect of further investment, the EDFL is committed and excited by the prospect of bringing additional community football (particularly the expanding Female football) to Windy Hill given the sites iconic status within the football community.
Through the proposed development plans, the EDFL and its 35 community clubs and over 11,000 registered participants and volunteers, would enjoy significantly increased access and amenity to the site throughout the year. This would enable increased use of the grounds for all our clubs, particularly as a flagship match-day facility, across all age groups and genders. This increase in capacity and facilities would have the added benefit of reducing the strain on existing ovals across the community, as well as providing enhanced facilities for some of our affiliated groups such as the umpiring and coaching cohorts who utilise Windy Hill as a base.
This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime development opportunity for community football in the north-west region of Melbourne.
Quote from Rob Blachford (committee member, EBC)
Essendon Bowls Club (EBC) applauds the initiative of the Essendon Football Club and the Moonee Valley City Council to develop an exciting vision for the regeneration of Windy Hill.
EBC has been actively involved in planning discussions in recent years with EFC and MVCC, sharing a mission to create win-win outcomes for local sports clubs and the community.
If achieved, this exciting vision with the development of a much-needed new state-of the-art bowls centre, will not only create significantly improved outcomes for bowlers, but also free up valuable space at Windy Hill to further enhance the possibilities for additional community facilities on the site currently occupied by EBC.