$208m upgrade proposed for UTAS Stadium

The City of Launceston will consider the endorsement of a $208m UTAS Stadium Future Direction Plan at its ordinary meeting Thursday, which aims to create a sustainable model for a fit-for-purpose sporting stadium in Launceston.

The draft Future Directions Plan contains a number of proposals that would see the most significant expansion of Launceston’s sporting infrastructure since the 1960s. These include increasing the stadium’s seating capacity to 27,500, the construction of a high-performance sports centre, as well as the development of an adjoining 5,000-seat, multi-use indoor sports facility capable of hosting national-level sporting competitions and events.

The Future Direction Plan also includes a proposal to move to a Trust governance model, with the Council divesting ownership of the stadium to the new Trust.

Launceston Mayor, Albert van Zetten, said the Draft Future Directions Plan responded to a shortfall in the quantity and quality of indoor sporting venues and associated infrastructure in Launceston:

This proposal seeks to bolster UTAS Stadium’s role as Tasmania’s premier sporting facility. Since its inception, UTAS Stadium has been a key economic engine driver in our city.

The sporting events it hosts each year spark regional economic activity through visitors staying in our hotels, eating in our restaurants and spending money in our CBD shops.

In 2019 alone, major events at the Stadium attracted more than 83,000 people — including 63,400 for AFL, and almost 22,000 for Big Bash matches – all of which represented a net economic benefit of more than $30m to the Northern Tasmanian economy.

Mayor van Zetten said the Future Directions Plan sought to leverage future opportunities for the stadium:

This plan aims to meet growing community needs and expectations in terms of contemporary sporting infrastructure, as well as to cater to the needs of a future AFL team.

A 2019 report commissioned by the State Government – AFL Licence Taskforce Business Plan 2019 – outlined that any Tasmanian AFL will require access to a high performance facility and an AFL standard stadium capable of hosting 27,500 patrons.

The Taskforce recommended the redevelopment of University of Tasmania Stadium (UTAS Stadium) as the initial primary football venue in the State – but went on to state that the stadium will need to undertake upgrades to provide additional seating capacity.

Mayor van Zetten said:

The AFL Taskforce report really is one of the key drivers of the Council Plan – to have a stadium capable of hosting high-profile games between powerhouse clubs capable of drawing crowds up to 27,500. The landscape for this type of facility has certainly changed over the past five years or so.

We’ve seen the new Perth Stadium opened at a cost of some $1 billion, through to Victorian state and local governments injecting more than $300 million into upgrades at GMHBA Stadium in Geelong in recent years.

Mayor van Zetten said that a lack of functional and modern sporting infrastructure is holding the region back and limiting the potential growth of a range of sports and events in Launceston:

This plan includes a number of initiatives that would cement the stadium’s reputation as the jewel in Tasmania’s sporting crown.

It is a multi-faceted proposal which would see the Stadium brought up to a contemporary standard in order to host more national-grade sporting events and to provide important additions to our city in terms of new indoor sports facilities.

Mayor van Zetten said the delivery of the draft plan would rely on the three tiers of government working together to provide the necessary funding.

He added:

Launceston is fortunate to have a City Deal in place and if this plan is endorsed by the Council, we would look to negotiate with all the parties involved to secure funding for this project, which we believe will open up many new opportunities for Northern Tasmania.

Not only will we have the capacity to host high-profile football teams, or even a Tasmanian AFL side, we will also be in a position to broaden our indoor sports and events offerings in ways that have not previously been possible.

With three additional indoor courts for basketball, as well as the ability to seat up to 5,000 people for major events such as NBL games, or even indoor concerts, the facilities proposed under the Future Directions Plan would be at a national standard.

It is an exciting proposal for Launceston, and one which I will be very interested in discussing with Councillors at next week’s Council meeting.

Source & image, courtesy: The City of Launceston

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