Essendon will soon have the best women’s football facilities in the country as it strives to gain entry into the AFL Women’s competition.
The facility, which is on track for completion as early as February, is part of phase one of the $21 million stage two development of the NEC Hangar.
It will be a significant step forward in the club’s quest to obtain a licence for the 2022 AFLW season, while also giving the VFLW Bombers a competitive advantage as they prepare to begin their third season in February.
General manager of strategic operations and community Jess Newman said the women’s football facility would bring a myriad of benefits.
"In the women’s facility we’ll have a dedicated AFLW change room, showers, medical facilities which include a doctor’s office, strapping benches and physio spaces, and an AFLW auditorium. We’re essentially replicating the men’s high-performance footprint," Newman said.
"They’ll (women’s teams) continue to share the gym and players’ lounge with the men’s team to ensure that, while there are dedicated facilities, it’s important we continue to foster integration and connection between our men’s and women’s teams and programs.
"We’re going to have the best-practice facilities in AFLW, which we hope will help Essendon obtain a licence to enter the AFLW competition in 2022. With these facilities, we will be able to attract top female football talent to our program and set ourselves for long-term success in the AFLW competition.
"(VFLW Bombers star) Courtney Ugle shed a few tears of excitement when we did a walk through the other day, when it was still very much a construction site, so it’s safe to say she’s pretty excited to get the team in and enjoy those facilities during the 2021 VFLW season.
"These dedicated women’s facilities demonstrate Essendon’s commitment to women’s football pathways and we can’t underestimate the positive impact they will have on female footballers in our region, not to mention our existing VFLW supporters and future AFLW fans."
The first phase of the NEC Hangar expansion will also include new atrium reception, cafe and retail areas, and dormitory accommodation for Paralympics Australia para-athletes and members of the club’s Next Generation Academy and associated community leagues.
The club has already delivered an expanded AFL player lounge and nutrition kitchen, AFL meeting rooms and VFL change room to add to its current AFL training facilities.
Phase two, which was recently funded by the State Government, is due to be completed in mid-2021. It will include a sports museum, community education hub and health clinic, and community change rooms.
Essendon wishes to thank Harris HMC, Jackson Architects, the Federal and State Governments, extended project team and its generous project donors for their ongoing commitment in bringing the club’s vision to life.