Commonwealth funding sought for Tasmania venue



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Business case for new Tasmanian AFL stadium released Image: AFL

The Tasmanian Government (island State of Australia) has detailed how it proposes to fund a $715 million roofed stadium at Macquarie Point in Hobart (parking lot), Australia, the timeline for construction and how it would integrate into the City Hobart.

‘ABC News’ stated that the Premier of Tasmania Jeremy Rockliff handed over the final business case to the Prime Minister of Australia Anthony Albanese recently, seeking $240 million – one-third of the total – in Commonwealth funding starting in 2026-2027.

The stadium cost is cheaper than the $750 million floated when it was first proposed, and the requirement for Commonwealth funding has dropped from half the total cost.

The roofed stadium is described as a “key requirement” for Tasmania’s entry into the Australian Football League (AFL) from 2027, as identified by the other clubs – but it faces political challenges from all sides.

The Australian Football League (AFL) is a company operating the premier and fully professional competition of Australian Rules football. Through its governing body, the AFL Commission, the AFL controls the laws of the game.

‘ABC News’ further stated that the Tasmanian Government has committed $375 million, the vast majority in 2026 to 2028, while asking the Commonwealth to provide $50 million in 2026-2027, $175 million in 2027-2028, and $15 million in 2028-2029.

The business case argues that the stadium would generate $85 million in direct economic activity per year, and 950 ongoing jobs, in addition to 4,200 construction jobs.

After the AFL chips in $15 million, it leaves $85 million remaining, which the State Government argues will come from borrowings against land sale, or lease for commercial uses.

But, according to the business case, “all that remains” is the Commonwealth contribution – which would allow the project to progress to planning and construction.

Added Rockliff, “It will also deliver our dream of our own AFL side, finally allowing Tasmania to take our rightful place on the national sporting stage.”

The Prime Minister said the Federal Government would “examine the detail” of the proposal.

Albanese said the stadium plan would be viewed through the lens of finally transforming and utilizing Macquarie Point – “that beautiful part of Hobart”.

The business case has also provided further insight into what the roofed stadium might look like on the 9.3-hectare Macquarie Point precinct, adjacent to Hobart’s waterfront and central business district (CBD).

It uses the planned 30,000-capacity Te Kaha Stadium in Christchurch, New Zealand, as an example, which is scheduled for completion in 2025.

Hobart’s stadium would have a similar roof structure, with a North-facing clear roof and a solid component at the Southern end, but with a smaller capacity of 23,000.

The stadium was described as “boutique”, on a smaller scale than the AFL team Gold Coast Sun’s stadium, the 22,500-capacity Metricon Stadium in Queensland, Australia, and would include corporate and events spaces, with potential for 1,500-person hotel accommodation.

Stadium works were estimated to be $527 million, and site works at $150 million and escalation was $64 million, but $26 million was taken off the project cost due to the already-funded Macquarie Point works.

The business case estimates the planning phase could be completed by late 2024, contractor appointed in early 2025 and construction complete by mid-2028, meaning the Tasmanian AFL team would need to play its first two seasons at the 20,000-capacity Bellerive Oval (Tasmania’s premier sporting venue) and the 21,000-capacity Launceston’s (Australia) York Park.

The Government hopes that the workforce being used on the Bridgewater Bridge project (Tasmania’s largest ever transport infrastructure project) can flow into the stadium project, when the bridge is completed.

It has also listed four options for the planning phase – go through the standard Council process, use the Government’s major projects legislation to circumvent roadblocks, declare it a project of State significance, or create specific legislation for it.

About 10,000 cubic meters of contaminated material will need to be removed, existing warehouses demolished and a brewery relocated as part of the enabling works.

The site has already had 67,000 tonnes of soils removed, along with 2.3 million liters of contaminated groundwater, underground tanks and mechanics pits.

The majority of the land was described as “remediated to a point where it can be safely capped/sealed” to minimize vapor risks.

Plans for ‘The Park’ open public space area, and the Antarctic and Science Precinct are unchanged, with public art to be “integrated” with the stadium precinct.

The Government considered six sites for the proposed stadium, but settled on either Regatta Point (the location of a port and rail terminus on Macquarie Harbour, West Coast, Tasmania) or Macquarie Point as its preferred options.

The former Premier of Tasmania Peter Gutwein announced the former in March 2022, but this was changed to the latter in July 2022 due to additional costs for the “floating” design on the Regatta grounds.

This decision also followed a visit to Hobart by top AFL executives, who preferred Macquarie Point.

The business case detailed issues with Bellerive Oval, including the inability for expansion due to nearby residential areas, and its distance from the CBD.

The Government also argued the proposed Macquarie Point stadium would benefit from an expanded Derwent River ferry service, with four new terminals – including at the 5,500-capacity Derwent Entertainment Centre in Tasmania – planned for the coming years, funded by the Commonwealth.

Minimal transport network changes were proposed, but the business case assumed the Northern suburbs transit corridor would be developed for transport uses by 2029. The stadium would sit at the end of this corridor.

The Government earlier commissioned a report which cited attendance estimates released under the Right to Information.

This included a prediction that seven regular season AFL matches would average crowds of 20,000, which three A-Leagues (highest-level professional men’s soccer league in Australia and New Zealand) and two Super Rugby (men’s professional rugby union club competition involving teams from Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, and the Pacific Island) matches would get 7,500 each, and the Big Bash League (Australian professional club Twenty20 cricket league) would average 10,000 across four matches.

The document also estimated the stadium would attract three international-standard concerts per year with 30,000 people in attendance.

The business case continued to cite this document for its attendance estimates.

Also included in the business case are testimonials from supporters of the project, including United Kingdom entertainer Robbie Williams, current and former AFL players and identities and local media, tourism, hospitality, and union figures.

Replying to a question about whether he would like to perform at a new stadium in Tasmania, Williams said, “I would actually love to, even if they have a medium-sized stadium. I’ve never been there and I’d like to go.”
 

Language Change

The ball is now, entirely, in the Commonwealth’s court.

But Rockliff said his recent meeting with Albanese was not just about the stadium, but about all infrastructure priorities for Tasmania.

The Government has also changed its language around the project, with it morphing from the Macquarie Point “arts, entertainment and sporting precinct” into the Macquarie Point “urban renewal project”.

Rockliff said the urban renewal aspect included housing and transport developments on the Northern suburbs transit corridor.

The Government faces a challenging political sell, with Labor-commissioned polling showing 67 percent of Tasmanians oppose the idea.

Tasmania’s Federal Liberals have also voiced opposition, including Bass (small rural town in Melbourne, Australia) MP Bridget Archer, Braddon (City in Australia) MP Gavin Pearce and Senators Jonathon Duniam, Wendy Askew and Claire Chandler, but Senator Richard Colbeck has spoken of his support.

The Federal Labor Government has avoided stating a position until it sees the final business case.

State Labor MP Ella Haddad said the Opposition would “certainly look at the business case” but that housing and the health system should be a priority instead for any money.

A business case captures the reasoning for initiating a project or task. It is often presented in a well-structured written document, but may also come in the form of a short verbal agreement or presentation.

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