By DI BARTOK
COMMUNITY leaders, worried about escalating youth crime and suicides, wait with bated breath over news of a permanent home for Parramatta PCYC.
The club has been in temporary rental premises in George St since its 60-year-old Hassall St home was sold in 2016 to developers for more than $30M.
But Parramatta PCYC president John Chedid, patron Jim Taggart and Lord Mayor Bob Dwyer fear the “promised” permanent home on land next to Bankwest Stadium may not happen after failing to get reassuring updates from Parramatta MP and acting Sports Minister Geoff Lee.
“We were led to believe that we would be able to build a bigger and better club on land next to the stadium, with the money made from the sale of our old building,” Mr Chedid told the Parramatta Times.
“Now we’re not sure what is happening and can’t get a straight answer from the government. Our lease runs out in two years and it would take that long to build a new facility.”
Lord Mayor Dwyer is also concerned, given a rise in youth gangs in the LGA, especially in Dundas Valley, his childhood suburb.
“When I was a boy, I spent time at Parramatta PCYC as it was a good place to set you on the right path,” Cr Dwyer said.
But CEO of PCYC NSW Dominic Teakle is a little more optimistic, expecting that the tender process for long-term rental of the Crown land will start soon.
Good chance of securing land
“As it is zoned community use, we won’t be up against big business, and while nothing is certain, we have a good chance of securing that land. I expect a decision this quarter of the year,” Mr Teakle said.
Mr Teakle also was worried the process was taking longer than expected.
“While the rented premises are good enough for now, a purpose-built place where we can have basketball courts. We’re very anxious to move into permanent premises.”
Mr Teakle said, while a portion of the $31M from the sale of the Hassall St building was spent on other PCYC facilities, “there is more than enough to build the new Parramatta premises”.
The PCYC has long been a haven for at-risk youth, providing physical activities, guided by local police officers dedicated to the task as well as a management team.
Mr Taggart is not only concerned about escalating youth crime, but also the rise in youth suicides.
“What worries me is more young people are suiciding and a place like PCYC is needed more than ever,” he said.
“It is a place like no other for young people, to let off steam and build a relationship with the police, who do a great job running PCYC. When I was growing up, I would go to PCYC and now I want to make sure young people today have their chance, especially those from one parent families.”
A response to the Times from Mr Lee indicates that PCYC will have to compete with other community and business interests for the site.
Mr Lee’s statement said: “The NSW Government’s vision for the Bankwest Stadium site is to develop a thriving and vibrant precinct with the right mix of community and commercial tenants which will make Parramatta an even better place to work, rest and play.
“I’ve instructed Venues NSW to work on the quickest way to achieve this vision to enable people of all ages to enjoy the site as soon as possible.”
Photo: Jim Taggart