The Tasmanian government has found an ally in its push for a new inner-city stadium, with an interstate tourism chief labeling the construction of a new stadium in his state as an “economic game-changer”.
Western Australia’s tourism council chief Evan Hall said the construction of the $1.5 billion stadium, which opened in 2018, had been a cash cow for the state rather than a drain on the taxpayer.
“The stadium is to the WA tourism industry what a mine is to the resources sector, or a port is to the trade sector,” Mr Hall said.
“We’ve seen a huge dividend from the stadium. It’s not seen as an expense, it’s seen as economic infrastructure like the port that brings in the cash for the facilities the state needs.”
Mr Hall met with Premier Jeremy Rockliff, Sports Minister Nic Street and tourism council chief Luke Martin today as debate rages among Tasmanians over the state government’s proposed $750 million stadium at Hobart’s Macquarie Point.
The fate of the state’s bid for an AFL team hinges on its construction after the league deemed a new inner-city roofed stadium as a prerequisite to Tasmania being granted the 19th license.
Large sections of the community, as well as some federal Liberals, state Labor and the Greens have vehemently opposed the idea, with most citing the potential state spending of $375 million as unacceptable.
Mr Hall said Perth stadium had acted as an economic driver which had largely benefited his state.
“The revenue has flowed through rates that local businesses pay, through payroll tax that businesses pay because it’s a huge employer, even for gaming taxes at the nearby casino and obviously the GST,” he said.
“It’s like discovering a whole new country of people who want to visit you.
“If Perth Stadium was a country, it’d be fourth on our list after the UK, Singapore and Malaysia in terms of the number of visitors we get to WA.”
Other states are seeing a positive impact
The merits of a Hobart stadium have been questioned by Tasmanians unhappy at the potential use of hundreds of millions of dollars on a new venue, at a site already earmarked for an Antarctic science precinct and an Aboriginal truth and reconciliation park.
But in other states, inner-city stadiums are making a positive economic impact.
A 2019 economic impact report prepared by Deloitte found Perth stadium and its precinct had generated an additional $129.7 million of gross state product following its construction and first year of operation.
It estimated a further $19.8 million of additional GSP on average, and the creation of 231 jobs per year in Western Australia as a result of the construction of the stadium.
The construction, which included a large footbridge and a new train station, cost the WA taxpayer almost $2 billion in total, with a small contribution from the AFL.
Proponents of the new Hobart stadium often refer to the redeveloped Adelaide Oval as the venue it would most like to emulate — a project that cost South Australians $535 million.
Since South Australia’s two AFL clubs moved to the ground from Football Park in 2014, it had generated $330 million of economic stimulus for the state and created more than 1,000 jobs, according to the venue’s CEO in 2019.
Bellerive ‘not adequate’
Questions are being raised too about the decision to build a new stadium despite Bellerive Oval on Hobart’s eastern shore already hosting four AFL games per year as well as domestic and international cricket.
In 2019, the Tasmanian AFL task force recommended that a roofed CBD-based multi-purpose facility be developed in Hobart as a “longer-term aspiration” if a new team were to be successful.
In February, a state government stadium site selection report ruled out Bellerive Oval for redevelopment, deeming it too small for a new or upgraded stadium with a radius of 140 meters.
Mr Martin believes Bellerive is not adequate to house an AFL club or to host large-scale events.
“We’re not attracting those major events because the infrastructure doesn’t support it,” the Tasmanian tourism chief said.
“At the moment what we’re looking at is a suburban ground, on the other side of the city, that is completely disconnected from our hospitality operations in the CBD.
“It’s a gorgeous, beautiful, suburban cricket ground, and it’ll stay that. This is about something completely different and the opportunities it opens up haven’t been considered before.
“5,000 people for a fixture in Hobart on a Sunday afternoon, for an NRL game, for example, would invigorate the CBD to a level we don’t see.”
Mr. Hall said the Western Australian government’s decision to shift major events from the suburban Subiaco ground to a new venue had changed the face of the city.
“There’s a difference about having one [a stadium] that’s right in the heart of the city. That’s going to enliven the city and activate the pubs, for which you’ve already got the hotel infrastructure and the room stock that’s there.
“Subiaco was absolutely capped out, it wasn’t great for fan experience, and we couldn’t fit in any interstate visitors.”
Stadium ‘must be designed for events Tasmania wants’
Mr. Hall issued a warning to the state government that any new building must be more than simply a football ground.
His concern was based on his state’s experience with the AFL, which he said wanted to “create a monopoly” on Perth stadium.
“The AFL worked very hard to contribute as little as they possibly could,” he said.
“They [the AFL] wanted to control the seats and wanted a monopoly that ran counter to what was the real objective of the stadium, which was to be economic infrastructure.
“It can’t become an AFL stadium. They can’t get a monopoly over the seats or packaging or distribution, it must cater for and be designed for the events that Tasmania wants.”