Stadium Queensland fans’ numbers slump


Australia Stadium Queensland visitor numbers down Image: Cox Architecture

COVID-19 – which has caught the world in its fatal twirl – has had a marked impact on fans’ attendance numbers at Stadium Queensland (Australia) venues, with the agency’s 2019-20 annual report showing 1.6 million fewer attendances – a drop of 40 percent – when compared to the previous year.

Stadium Queensland venues include – Suncorp Stadium, The Gabba, Cbus Super Stadium (formerly Skilled Park), Metricon Stadium, 1300SMILES Stadium, Queensland Tennis Centre, Sleeman Sports Complex, Brisbane Entertainment Centre and the Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre.

The 2019-20 fiscal year saw Stadium Queensland venues welcome 2.6 million patrons, down from 4.2 million in 2018-19 while recording a $9 million operating loss.

The agency’s annual report, tabled in the Queensland Parliament prior to the recent State election, noted the cost of managing events saw a meteoric rise because of the additional COVID-19 regulations and hygiene requirements in place, while its expenses rose because of “maintaining large depreciating venues”.

Stadiums Queensland Chairwoman Cathy McGuane wrote in the report that the entertainment sector had been hit hard and would continue to struggle with the uncertainty surrounding international music acts and event tours.

McGuane advised, “The major events industry was one of the first to close in response to the pandemic and few other industries have been affected as severely. Major events make a large contribution to the Queensland economy, pumping an estimated $800 million into the economy last financial year, with approximately $355 million in economic benefit from our venues from regular season fixtures alone.”

She added, “This year is different, and the effects of the pandemic on the economy, though widely speculated, remain unknown.”

The year had started off on a promising note with Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium attracting almost 40,000 patrons for the Queen + Adam Lambert concert and around 46,000 for a U2 concert (rock band).

Almost 92,000 tennis enthusiasts enjoyed the Brisbane International and the ATP Cup, while Townsville’s new Queensland Country Bank Stadium was also opened.

However, coronavirus global spread necessitating lockdowns the world over has seen events halted at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre, with McGuane noting that the venue is “expected to be severely impacted by the lack of international travel, and thus international touring acts, for which there remains no estimated return date”.

Numbers at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre came down to half from 815,866 in 2018-19 to just 413,273 in 2019-20, with fans attending international acts including Tool (American rock band), Elton John (English singer-songwriter), Hugh Jackman (Australian actor) and Fleetwood Mac (rock band).

The Gabba fared slightly better, with 394,654 patrons across the year, down from 506,931 the year before, while staging Australian Football League (AFL) matchups.

However, despite scripting a success story as far as concerts are concerned, Suncorp Stadium recorded the biggest fall in patronage, down from just over one million in 2018-19 to just 417,535 this financial year.

As of June 30th, the report mentioned that more that just 28,000 people returned to facilities for post-lockdown fixtures across the winter football cross codes.

McGuane wrote that despite the catastrophic effects of COVID-19 and the mass cancellations, Stadiums Queensland still managed to add an extra 118 events to the calendar, adding, “Reopening our venues has not only provided a glimmer of hope and sense of normality in troubled times, but also ensured ongoing employment for those associated with the events.”

Operationally, the annual report noted that the shutdown did come with benefits such as maintenance work on several venues could be completed without having to reschedule events around it.

The Gabba’s $35 million upgrade was on schedule for completion in October, while it also lodged thousands of AFL fans enjoying the unprecedented number of matches played in Queensland.

In addition, a ski-jump training facility was completed at the Sleeman Sports Complex, ready for national and international ski teams to train ahead of the Winter Olympics.

Looking towards recovery, McGuane explained that Queensland has become the first State to reopen its venues, adding, “Stadium Queensland led the nation with the return of crowds, and even paved the way for other businesses, by working closely with the Government and local health authorities and implementing smart and efficient protocols.”

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