Essendon Football Club has today welcomed the announcement from the Victorian State Government of a $6.28 million funding commitment to complete its stage two development project of the NEC Hangar. 

The announcement from Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events Martin Pakula confirms the State Government and Essendon Football Club's shared commitment to growing female football participation from the grassroots to the elite level, with the club affirming its commitment to gain entry into the AFLW competition as soon as 2022.

The centre will incorporate training and competition facilities, as well as space to host community programs to support women and girls in sport. The project will see the development of three unisex change rooms and one dedicated AFLW change room, purpose-built women’s medical, meeting and match-day facilities, a function centre and community education hub and health clinic. The centre will also continue to be the home of Paralympics Australia’s Victorian office.

The Commonwealth Government and Essendon Football Club have also provided funding towards the project.

The Hon. Pakula said women and girls were the big winners in the Bombers’ project.

“This exciting project will inspire more women and girls to get involved in sport and develop their skills,” The Hon. Pakula said.

“More women and girls are playing football than ever and players in Melbourne’s northern suburbs deserve quality facilities in which to hone their craft.”

Essendon President Paul Brasher welcomed the Victorian State Government’s commitment of $6.28 million today to support the second phase of the multi-purpose stage two expansion of the NEC Hangar.

“This State Government funding allows us to realise the complete vision of the stage two development and bring meaningful impact to a broad range of important club stakeholders, so we’re extremely grateful for the support of the Premier of Victoria Hon. Daniel Andrews and The Hon. Martin Pakula, their party and the Department of Sport and Recreation Victoria for the ongoing collaboration and commitment to realising this vision for the NEC Hangar,” Brasher said.

“This funding will enable us to deliver an integrated elite and community sporting precinct. Essendon Football Club will now boast best-practice, dedicated women’s football facilities for our VFLW and women’s pathway programs as we prepare to secure our AFLW licence.

“Essendon is committed to providing opportunities for women and girls to participate in our great game. Facilities will also be available to support the development of young talent and coaches in our local football leagues, the Essendon District Football League and the Riddell District Football League, as well as participants in our Next Generation Academy. This is something our members and supporters should be very proud of.

“Further to the outcomes for women’s and community sport, funding will also be used to enhance the presence and capacity for vital community services, events and facilities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, multicultural communities and the wider community in the north-west corridor. It allows us to grow Essendon’s health and education programs and important partnerships with organisations like The Long Walk and the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service.

“Our club will soon have a state-of-the-art football and community precinct with improved high-performance football facilities to further enhance our AFL men’s program already completed through early phase one works, thanks to private support from the EFC Network. Importantly it builds on the already significant foundations for our men’s AFL program and will allow us greater flexibility in our programming and the ability to hold turn-key high-performance initiatives, like camps, right throughout the year; a considerable benefit considering the significant reduction in broader football department spending beyond 2020.

“The full scope of phase-one works within the development are now close to full completion, including a unisex change room, expanded AFL men’s player lounge, accessible dormitory accommodation, café and retail areas as well as a new entrance and atrium reception space.

“Despite the financial impacts of COVID-19, we have been able to continue with construction of the first phase of the project throughout this year which is on track for completion in early 2021. Today’s announcement means that, importantly, commencement of the second phase of this project can now commence from early next year and be delivered before the end of 2021, in time for the club’s 150th anniversary year in 2022.

“The total project cost is $21 million, over $10 million of capital has been raised by the club through its supporter base and in late 2018 we received a $4 million grant from the Federal Government to support the club’s strategic partnership and shared facilities with Paralympics Australia.

“This $6.28 million funding commitment from the Victorian State Government bridges the final funding gap for the project. On behalf of the Board, we wish to thank all the donors and funding partners who have contributed to the project as well as all members of the project team who have helped bring our vision to life. We also wish to again acknowledge the State Government for their support of this important project.”