St Kilda says its involvement in the proposed multimillion dollar redevelopment of Junction Oval is ''highly speculative'', although the club has not closed the door on the romantic notion of returning to its original home.
The Saints confirmed on Thursday that they had been approached by the AFL about the possibility of incorporating a ''St Kilda presence'' into the potential establishment of a co-tenancy arrangement at the ground between football and Cricket Victoria.
An exclusive story in Fairfax Media this week detailing the proposed re-development – which would make the MCG available for AFL games throughout March and fast-track the establishment of a state-of-the-art facility for cricket – prompted the Saints to issue a statement on Thursday.
''The St Kilda Football Club has a heartland strategy which aims to promote strong engagement between the club, its supporters and Melbourne’s bayside communities,'' the statement said. ''We have a professional training and administration base at Linen House Centre in Seaford, an ongoing presence at Moorabbin and would consider any new opportunities to further combine our rich bayside heritage with future community engagement.
''When you consider our whole of bayside strategy, existing quality facilities at Linen House Centre, strong relationships with Frankston and Kingston City Councils and commitments that are in place, it is highly speculative to imply any situation beyond that. These developments [reported by Fairfax Media] are new from a St Kilda Football Club point of view, and it is therefore inappropriate to comment further until more details emerge.''
Attempts for further comment from a high-ranking St Kilda official were not successful, with St Kilda president Peter Summers overseas and incoming chief executive Matt Finnis not officially starting in the job until next week.
The AFL also confirmed its involvement in the proposal, with an AFL spokesman saying: ''The AFL will continue to work with government and other sports to explore options to enhance facilities at the Junction Oval with a view to making the MCG available for the AFL's opening round in years to come''.
Fairfax Media revealed on Thursday that Premier Denis Napthine and Minister for Sport Damian Drum last week gave the AFL the green light to explore the potential redevelopment, bringing it one step closer to reality. The government has agreed to broker a proposed scenario that would transform the facility into two separate ovals.
Under the proposal, St Kilda and Cricket Victoria would have access to one oval each and also house their administrative offices alongside the grounds – as well as share other facilities, such as a swimming pool and gymnasium.
Cricket Victoria would hold the rights to the current main oval – and use it to host Sheffield Shield finals if they were eligible – with the adjacent oval for the Saints joined by a tunnel. The state government has already pledged $10 million to help fund the redevelopment.
The optimistic view is that redevelopment could be completed within two years.
St Kilda’s administrative offices are currently stationed at Seaford, where it’s understood the club currently holds a 25-year lease on the property (starting in 2010) with an option to extend by another 25 years.
St Kilda captain Nick Riewoldt has admitted publicly what some at the club have privately felt, that the Saints' Seaford base is geographically ''challenging'', and that it was Moorabbin that remained the club's spiritual heartland. ''I think everyone would acknowledge that Seaford is geographically a little bit challenging at times. But the real challenge is to make any environment one that is enjoyable to be at,'' Riewoldt said in February.
''We love the opportunity to come back to Moorabbin, as well,'' he said. ''That is our heartland, Port Melbourne to Portsea, we are the bayside club, so we want to be representative of that.'''
The Junction Oval was home to St Kilda before it moved to Moorabbin in 1965.