Launceston turning to sport to attract more visitors

Cross sticks: Tasmania and Queensland compete in the national under-18 men's hockey championship at St Leonards in July, 2016.
Cross sticks: Tasmania and Queensland compete in the national under-18 men's hockey championship at St Leonards in July, 2016.

Low temperatures have long been the subject of mainland jibes about Tasmania. 

But now Launceston wants to make itself cooler.

The city has turned to sport to help boost visitor numbers during the traditionally quiet period from March to November.

During this timeframe, the extent of Launceston’s hospitality is only ever stretched by the V8s, Targa Tasmania, Agfest and Hawthorn’s AFL fixtures.

The powers-that-be want to see that changed.

They believe that the area’s sporting facilities and transport infrastructure can be better utilised to significantly boost the winter economy.

Tourism Northern Tasmania, in partnership with City of Launceston, the Silverdome, Events Tasmania and City Prom initiated the Cool Season Events Research Project which concluded there were major economic and social benefits to be had from proactive event attraction.

The report, which came out in April and was discussed by council in August, sought to get better value for money out of Launceston sporting venues like UTAS Stadium, the Silverdome, Elphin Sports Centre, the aquatic centre and regional tennis centre.

“All the venues are capable of hosting more events,” the report said.

“Launceston is home to a range of excellent multi-purpose and sporting venues and infrastructure which could be used more frequently.

“The national marketplace holds thousands of sporting championships and events and is becoming increasingly competitive. Given the natural assets of Launceston, its own top regional airport with direct flights to major city centres, and major venues, there is every reason to suggest that Launceston can be a successful competitor in the national event marketplace.”

Tasmania takes on South Australia in the national 21-and-under netball championships at the Silverdome in March 2016.

Tasmania takes on South Australia in the national 21-and-under netball championships at the Silverdome in March 2016.

The report suggested Launceston needed to be more proactive, should employ someone responsible for event attraction, calendar management and bidding support and could learn from other regional cities like Ballarat and even Devonport.

Ballarat employs two full-time staff to support event development and hosts numerous events including the national road cycling championships while Devonport has secured national triathlon and bowls titles and co-hosted the Australian Masters Games.

Attracting two to three major events per year could bring in 5000 additional visitors and the report identified sporting opportunities from bowls to BMX.

In addition to assessing city venues, the report examined the potential of places as far afield as Symmons Plains, Lake Barrington, Blue Derby and Barnbougle.

It said it was essential that venues met national standards, suggested council funding to encourage sporting associations to bid for more events and said cutting out sports management companies could lead to substantial savings, with Devonport able to redirect $20,000 to event attraction.

For a state with a population of 500,000 and a city deemed to have a population of 86,000 and a capacity of 3000 beds, Launceston is indeed well served by sporting venues.

Tasmania's Ryan Lawson in action against Victoria's Graeme Frislie at the junior national track cycling championships at the Silverdome in February, 2016.

Tasmania's Ryan Lawson in action against Victoria's Graeme Frislie at the junior national track cycling championships at the Silverdome in February, 2016.

AFL matches, international tennis tournaments and national junior basketball tournaments have become commonplace while the versatility of the Silverdome was perfectly demonstrated when it hosted international netball and boxing within 72 hours of each other last year.

Cricket Tasmania has indicated the potential to host a range of national and junior championships at UTAS Stadium; national or even continental senior or under-age titles could be staged at the regional tennis centre; and while the aquatic centre may be limited to short-course events, Swimming Tasmania is looking to bring more development program meets to Launceston.

Other potential events identified include athletics, track cycling, indoor hockey, futsal, BMX and karate.

The city is already taking major strides.

Between February and July last year it hosted national under-age track cycling, netball and hockey championships and the under-19 cricket champs are in town this week.

On November 14 it was announced that the Oceania road champs were heading to Northern Tasmania for three years and a week later Launceston Council approved a $50,000 grant to facilitate the 2018 national rally championships.

The St Leonards athletic track has been resurfaced while infrastructure upgrades are on the horizon at the Silverdome and Churchill Park soccer grounds.

The full-time position recommended in the TNT report has been filled.

Offering a warmer welcome could be helping Launceston become cooler.