The NSW Government says investigating the future of the WIN entertainment centre has now become "a priority", in the wake of the embarrassing roof leak debacle which stopped a nationally televised Hawks game on Sunday.
Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery welcomed any move towards improving the run-down centre, but said it should have been done years ago and didn't "address the more pressing question of what we are going to do in the meantime".
In a statement two days after the incident, which has been labelled a disgrace and prompted local politicians to joke that the WEC should now be dubbed "the wreck", the acting Minister for Sport Geoff Lee said he had been assured that centre was "safe and functional".
Following a debate at Wollongong council on Monday, Mr Lee said he had called Cr Bradbery "to tell him that I have instructed Venues NSW to finalise consultation with stakeholders and report to me as a priority, with regards to the next steps for the Illawarra Sports and Entertainment Precinct".
"I also advised the mayor the NSW Government is willing to work collaboratively with Wollongong Council to establish the best way forward," he said.
Cr Bradbery said he had told the minister that his new commitment to making the WEC's future a priority was "fine, with regard to the long term and future precinct planning".
"I said we were quite happy to look at all the options for that precinct long term, but I also asked what we are going to do in the short term in terms of meeting the immediate needs of the community and the basic amenities," he said.
"The minister didn't commit to anything except for making sure the roof is safe... I am hopefully going to have conversations to press these things further but at this stage I don't have anything to report in terms a concrete commitment. There's still no money."
Venues NSW says it has spent $1.86million on the WEC since 2016. But Cr Bradbery said this had been used to replace the broken scoreboard, build anti-terror bollards in front of the building, fix the airconditioning and do kitchen renovations.
"That's just keeping the building functioning, it's not upgrading the amenities which are now 20 years old," Cr Bradbery said.
Speaking in the first day of NSW parliament for the year, Wollongong MP Paul Scully took aim at the lack on maintenance at the WEC, holding up a copy of the Mercury's front page which showed grass about half a metre high growing from the roof of the centre.
"This was a function of the government not taking the premier entertainment centre, the one it owns, in the third largest city of the state seriously," he said.
"This is a function of spending a paltry $1.86 million on a multimillion dollar entertainment venue over the last three and a half year."
He said the maintenance record and roof leak had led to a "national embarrassment" for Wollongong, the Hawks and the NSW government.
"The current government seems intent on letting the Wollongong Entertainment Centre fall down around our ears," he said.
"Well I'm not copping that, and Wollongong's not going to cop it either."
He noted that there was long-running and widespread support for a full upgrade of the centre, and invited Mr Lee to visit the centre to see the results of the "neglect".
He told the Mercury that if Mr Lee was "genuinely keen to work cooperatively, he should publicly release the master plan [which was purportedly developed by KPMG following a consultation process which started in 2018], so that all of Wollongong and not just a handpicked few can consider it."
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has also been invited to see the deterioration of the state-owned WIN Entertainment Centre, in a letter sent by Cr Bradbery which described the leaky roof was "a disgrace".
He told Ms Berejiklian that Sunday's incident was far from the first, and noted council had requested "urgent maintenance" from Venues NSW as recently as November to ensure events could continue to operate at the WEC safely and without incident.
"Due to the most recent failure of your asset in front of an international audience, council is seeking a commitment to the next stage of the WEC planning process," Cr Bradbery said.