Cowboys’ training centre beacon of hope


Australia North Queensland Toyota Cowboys Image: Populous

The Australian professional rugby league football club – North Queensland Toyota Cowboys – along with the world – is trying to steer through the COVID-19 storm. However, a symbol of hope and regeneration for the region has been taking shape on the banks of the Ross River beside Queensland Country Bank Stadium in Australia, just like every dark cloud has a silver lining.

The North Queensland Toyota Cowboys are an Australian professional rugby league football club based in Townsville, the largest city in North Queensland. They compete in Australia’s premier rugby league competition, the National Rugby League (NRL).

Queensland Country Bank Stadium is Townsville’s new 25,000-capacity stadium which officially opened in February 2020. The centrally-located, best-purpose, multiuse venue is the new home of NRL club, North Queensland Cowboys. The first event held at the venue was the Elton John concert on February 29.

The National Rugby League is Australia’s top-level domestic men’s rugby league club competition. It contains clubs from the original Sydney club Rugby League competition, which had been running continuously since 1908.

Though everything was shuttered through the coronavirus upheaval, the development of the club’s new Community, Training and High Performance Centre has continued, thus generating vital employment during the construction phase and ensuring its future economic contribution following completion in early 2021.

The Cowboys are teaming up with James Cook University in the $40 million development. The complex sits on 17,000m² of land leased from the Townsville City Council, and will lodge club operations and combine community areas, multisport high-performance training spaces, sports medicine and sports science laboratories and a community training field.

The project has received staged funding through several sources – the Federal Government has injected $15 million, a $20 million loan from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) and philanthropic investment from club supporters.

The whole development is being managed by the North Queensland industry with Hutchinson Builders Townsville appointed as managing contractor and expert touch in designing has been lent by global design firm Populous in alliance with local firm Tippett Schrock Architects.

Jeff Reibel, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at North Queensland Toyota Cowboys, maintained that the new Centre is key to the long-term strategy – “The shutdown has been a very challenging time for everyone involved with the club, as it has been for our entire North Queensland community and beyond. We’re operating with uncertainties and are a business that depends on the generous support of our partners, members and patrons for our team and community programs.”

“We’ve had an increased focus on securing our sustainability on and off the field over the last few months, and our new Community, Training and High Performance Centre is a huge part of the club continuing to move forward as our time at our current headquarters in Kirwan comes to an end,” he added.

“This facility will create a state-of-the-art, high-performance training environment for our team and will help us retain and recruit the best talent available to ensure we’re a competitive force for many years to come,” the Cowboys’ boss further maintained.

“Under the conditions of our funding, the investment for our new Centre has been ‘quarantined’ from our day-to-day operations which have guaranteed that the benefits for both the club and our community will continue to flow now and into the future,” Reibel stated.

Construction of the facility is projected to bring in the following economic benefits to North Queensland:

  • $71.1 million output for local businesses (including $30.6M directly);
  • $32.3 million in gross regional product (including $11.7M directly);
  • Two hundred and thirteen full time jobs (including 80 FTE jobs directly); and
  • $16.6M in wages and salaries (including $3.6M to households directly).

Project advocate and Member for HerbertPhil lip Thompson OAM, MP, observed that investment projects like the Community, Training and High Performance Centre will play a key role in contributing to the region’s recovery battered due to COVID-19.

“I’m passionate about the Cowboys as my rugby league team, but I’m even more invested in the prosperity and economic health of our region, and this project represents both,” Thompson asserted.

“We’re looking very closely at the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on local employment and the 58 full-time jobs this Centre will support from 2022 – that’s $4.4 million in wages and salaries – will be part of our road ahead, on the back of the 213 full-time jobs involved in construction. Its flow-on impact for local business ($14M) and our gross regional product ($7.2M) puts the new Centre firmly on our recovery blueprint,” he added.

The Cowboys Group (Cowboys Football Club, Cowboys Leagues Club and Cowboys Community Foundation) together generates an estimated $167.9M in economic output and contributes $89.4M to the gross regional product of North Queensland, providing a total of 724 ongoing full-time equivalent jobs.

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