By Mick Roberts
26 May 2010 - The Torch
THE Bulldogs are moving back to Belmore thanks to a $5 million Federal Government grant to Canterbury City Council.
Stage one of the redevelopment of Belmore Sports Ground will create state-of-the-art training and office facilities primarily for the use of the Bulldogs and also for Sydney Olympic Soccer Club.
Canterbury City Council and the Bulldogs will contribute $500,000 each to the project, with building due to commence within the next few months.
A new-look Belmore should be ready for the start of the 2011 football season and will include a world-class gym, a recovery centre, theatre, and a players' lounge with study facilities.
Stage two of the project, which requires further funding, would see the oval upgraded to the point where it could host junior representative rugby league and NSW Cup games and potentially host NRL trial games. There are no plans to host regular season NRL games at the venue.
The Bulldogs have been operating out of Sydney Olympic Park since departing Belmore in 2008 and will continue to be based there until the redevelopment is complete.
Back to Belmore's Luke Brailey believes the funding is the first step in a process that will ultimately see the Bulldogs return to the venue for selected NRL matches. He said the announcement is a major victory for all sporting bodies in the Canterbury-Bankstown district.
Bulldogs chairman Ray Dib said the project will give the club one of the best training facilities in Australian sport.
Former Bulldogs great Steve Mortimer has fond memories of pulling on the blue and white jersey at Belmore.
"It's certainly a special place for me," he said. "Belmore was an intimidating place for any team."
Mr Mortimer said he was thrilled with the news, but reinforced his belief that Sydney Olympic Park should remain the home of club matches.
"We need at least a 40,000 seating capacity for the club to be sustainable, and although I'm supportive of Belmore becoming our administrative and training headquarters, ANZ Stadium should continue as our home ground," he said.
Minister for Infrastructure Anthony Albanese said the redevelopment is expected to support 40 jobs during construction, as well as another 10 jobs over the longer term, delivering an economic boost for the region.