[News] Hawthorn Hawks announce when Kennedy Community Centre will be completed

“To quote Michelle Obama; when they go low, we stay high,” he said.

Nankivell understood the scepticism about the announcement but said the timing was “unrelated” to the ongoing board drama. The agreement, he said, had to be made now to ensure construction was completed by mid-2024.

“It was at the last board meeting of the Hawthorn Football Club last month that the decision was made to sign the building contract with ADCO,” Nankivell said.

“I don’t see it like that [the announcement being a late bid to win votes]. The staff from Hawthorn and the board have been working assiduously to get this contract concluded with ADCO Constructions, and we are thrilled to be here and doing that.”

Reeves said the Hawks were certain the Kennedy Community Centre would be operational by the target date and that it would be “the best in the business”.

Former deputy premier in the Andrews government, James Merlino.Credit:Paul Jeffers

He also confirmed funds from their mid-year sale of the WestWaters Hotel, one of two pokies venues they offloaded, were always earmarked to help deliver the Dingley project.

Hawthorn released its 2022 financial result on Wednesday, with Nankivell declaring the Hawks had never been more financially sound, in large part from making a $32 million profit on the gaming venues.

Reeves hopes the state government will release “in the short term” the $15 million funding for the Dingley construction, otherwise not all community elements will become a reality.

“The government has been very, very supportive,” he said.

“They’re very invested in those community facilities, and we will continue to work with them on the best outcome for everyone.”

Board candidate and former deputy premier James Merlino, who is part of Hawthorn For Change, told The Age the Kennedy Community Centre was “an incredibly exciting project” but needed to go beyond football.

“As the club stands, there’s a disconnect with many members,” Merlino said.

“The project that was announced today is solely a football project – and it’s got to be more than that.

“What we want to see in Dingley is a Kennedy Community Centre that is delivering elite facilities for the men’s and women’s teams but also is a loved venue for Hawthorn members and the broader Hawthorn community.”

Merlino said a Gowers-led board, including himself if he was elected, would endeavour to cooperate with the government to secure the pending $15 million.

“The funding for the projects has been put in contingency and that allows departments to work with the clubs and proponents of these projects,” he said.

“That’s normal. What is abnormal is the approach the Kennett-Nankevill board has taken – the commentary, the attacking.

“It’s commonsense if you want to engage and get an outcome, then you need to truly engage and be cooperative and engage maturely with governments … but what we’ve seen from the Kennett-Nankivell board is the opposite.

“That doesn’t help the club, and it doesn’t help its members.”

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