The battle to remove the overhead power lines involved different governments, landowners and developers, and is not so fondly remembered by anyone, including the USC hierarchy.
Professor Paul Thomas said, “It took Mark Bradley and me out of the action for a long time because of all the interaction with senior bureaucrats and ministers. They said the cost of going underground was prohibitive and the cost of going around the grounds was prohibitive, and none of them wanted to access that kind of money.
“It took a few years of going to the media and into government offices and it was hard, really hard, but eventually the power was re-routed around the site.” Professor Thomas explained why USC was so determined: “It inhibited development, aesthetically it was a nightmare and there’s research about radiation.”
The issue went down to the wire. Mr Bradley described the day the power lines came down. “We got rid of them in 1999, in the countdown to the Sydney Olympics in 2000,” he said. “Pressures were mounting and we had a contract with the federal and state governments for the provision of pre-Olympic training at our athletics track. We had to drop the power lines or we couldn’t put up the throwing nets for the hammer throw and the discus!”
It only sounded amusing. The re-routing involved sizeable financial contributions from other stakeholders and affected nearby land sales, including resumptions. The changeover itself was very serious.
“We had the alternative network energised on the day and they cut the network over live, which I’d never seen happen,” Mr Bradley said. “There was an excavator with big pincers that basically cut up the lines in the air and dumped them.” If things had gone wrong with the main feeder, the entire region might have blacked out. The War of the Worlds-style scene was duly photographed.