“Ageing” Penrith Whitewater Stadium in limbo after 21-year agreement expires

Penrith Whitewater Stadium Venue Manager Jack Hodge. Photo: Melinda Jane.
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Penrith Whitewater Stadium (PWS) is locked in to host the 2025 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships but the path to get there seems like it will be a rocky one.

The 2021-22 annual report has shown COVID-19 and flooding have significantly impacted the venue, but there is now a question surrounding the future management of the stadium.

The site is owned by the State Government but since the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000, has been operated and managed by Penrith City Council.

At the recent Council Policy Review Meeting, PWS Venue Manager Jack Hodge outlined the current situation.

“The Penrith Whitewater lease expired on the 31st of December 2021 between Council and the government,” Mr Hodge said.

“The first 21-year lease period has finished and there hasn’t been a decision made as to who will operate the venue so until there is a plan to do otherwise, we are operating the venue as usual.”

That task has been a tough one with the revenue for the last financial year being $455,851, which is 22 per cent less compared to $582,611 for 2021.

The financial outcome for the year ending June 30, 2022, resulted in a loss of $412,662 before depreciation, amortisation, and interest.

Lack of participation and increased energy prices have contributed to the losses.

“COVID was really tough because international paddlers weren’t able to come and all the money we earn to self-run the place comes from the activities we operate,” Mr Hodge said.

“We use a lot of energy and prices compared to last year are about three times which is a massive thing but still have one of the highly regarded courses in the world so the venue will keep operating in some shape or form.”

With upgrades needed ahead of the international events that are locked in, Councillor and PWS Chairman Ross Fowler said there needs to be a strong plan of action.

“We need to work together with Paddle Australia, the State Government, the International Canoe Federation and Penrith City Council for urgent action and a plan for the future operations because this facility is ageing,” Cr Fowler said.

“We will be back on the world stage in 2025 when we host the World Canoe Slalom Championships and really, for that to be a success we need to act now and, in my opinion, not wait until March 2023 for the State Election to be over.”

Despite nothing being set in stone, a spokesperson for the Department of Planning and Environment said the NSW Government is committed to the ongoing operation of the site.

“The Department of Planning and Environment is working with Penrith City Council and the Office of Sport on its long-term management, to ensure it continues to provide recreational and sporting benefits to the local community and broader region,” the spokesperson said.

During Monday’s Ordinary Meeting, the Councillors endorsed that Council give Paddle Australia $40,000 as part of a three-year sponsorship agreement.

Emily Feszczuk

A graduate of Western Sydney University, Emily covers Local, State and Federal politics for the Weekender, as well as crime and general news.

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