The majority-owning Penn family have re-affirmed their commitment to Manly as the Sea Eagles finalise a bid for state government funding for a $22 million new Centre of Excellence at Narrabeen they believe would bring the club up to speed with many of its NRL rivals.
With a deadline looming next Friday for applications to share in $40 million of NSW government funding, Manly chief executive Tim Cleary will next week take plans and designs for the project to the Sea Eagles board before presenting them to Macquarie St.
Manly will seek backing for half the cost of stage one of the new centre, although there is set to be hot competition for funds, with South Sydney, Wests Tigers, Canterbury and Sydney Roosters all likely to be in the mix for a slice of the pie.
The proposed facility at Narrabeen and a significant upgrade of their home ground, Lottoland, are the central plank of the Penns’ ambitions for the Sea Eagles. Amid concerns about the club’s financial losses and internal turmoil – a power struggle between Cleary and head of football Bob Fulton was settled a week ago – there have been questions asked on the northern beaches about how long the majority-owners would continue to pour money into Manly.
However, Manly chairman Scott Penn declared that the family were in it for the long haul.
“From a Penn family point of view we are absolutely committed,” he said. “We’ve been involved for over 12 years now and we still absolutely love the club.
“We love all of our staff and love the involvement. Your passion is sometimes tested with these issues [the Cleary-Fulton feud] but what we are most excited about is the Centre of Excellence and the upgrade of Brookie, which Tim has already done an excellent job of taking to the next level just in the past six weeks.”
With ANZ Stadium to receive a major upgrade, Allianz Stadium to be refurbished and a brand new venue being built at Parramatta, Manly are conscious of falling further behind with the tired facilities at Lottoland, which will host Saturday’s match against the Bulldogs. The first step will be an additional 4500 seats under cover with corporate facilities. To pay for it they have banked $12.5 million in federal government funding and are confident that NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian will honour the promise of her predecessor Mike Baird to match it.
“We want a genuine Centre of Excellence at Narrabeen that we can be proud of and a redeveloped Lottoland that is going to allow us to compete with the next level of stadia,” Penn said.
We are very mindful that other clubs are going to be playing out of outstanding venues and we want to compete. We need to make sure we can give our members and supporters a ground that we can be proud of. We want to be close to the ground and preserve our history but people have a very high expectation of the game-day experience.”