LAUNCESTON is ready for the challenge of hosting two major events in successive days, Mayor Albert van Zetten said after it was announced the biggest club in the AFL would be paying the city a visit.
Collingwood, the undisputed powerhouse of the AFL with 79,273 members this season, will tackle two-time reigning premier Hawthorn [no slouch itself with 68,652 members] to kick off the AFL's preseason NAB Challenge series.
It will be the Magpies' first match in Launceston since they played a practice match at the then-named York Park in the 1990s, and first in Tasmania since they played a similar preseason match against Melbourne at North Hobart Oval in March 2001.
The match, which will be played at 7.10pm on Thursday, February 26, comes a day after the Launceston Cup, an event that attracted more than 12,000 people this year.
Collingwood attracted similar numbers to its NAB Challenge matches last year, with a crowd of 12,140 watching it play Geelong in Geelong, and about 11,000 saw it play at Wangaratta.
In comparison, only about 4000 people witnessed Hawthorn defeat North Melbourne in their preseason clash in Launceston in February.
"The challenges for the city and the region arising from the NAB Cup match being held on February 26 are that accommodation and service providers are likely to be over extended with these two events coming so closely together," Alderman van Zetten said.
"But there are also enormous opportunities for local businesses.
"Hawthorn are back-to-back premiers and this will be their first outing for 2015. On top of that we have another tier-one side in Collingwood, playing their first match at Aurora Stadium.
"So it is something we all need to capitalise on; it's an exciting opportunity for Northern Tasmania and one we need to band together to make the most of."
Tourism Northern Tasmania chief executive Chris Griffin said although the demands of the city's tourism industry would be elevated, it presented a great opportunity to promote longer stays in Launceston and region beyond the events.
"We'll be putting together a promotion that not only includes the two events, but also a fun-packed long weekend of activities, including the newly opened Hollybank mountain bike park, wine tours of the Tamar Valley, as well as golf and fishing," Mr Griffin said.
"With such a high-profile game being held in Launceston we'll have an attentive audience in supporters of both teams to promote our region's appeals."
AFL Tasmania chief executive Scott Wade, who Alderman van Zetten acknowledged as playing a key role in securing the high-profile fixture, said it was the best possible way to begin the celebration of 150 years of Australian football in Tasmania.
Hawthorn's Launceston home and away fixtures were also announced last night, with the Western Bulldogs [in round 3], Gold Coast [in round 9], Fremantle [in round 15] and Brisbane [in round 22] scheduled to play at Aurora in 2015.