I was delighted to hear the news that City of Launceston is proposing to invest in UTAS Stadium.
Immediately I thought this is a game-changer opportunity, especially for our tourism and events sectors.
As is natural when a proposal this significant is tabled, voices in the community are for and against it.
Opposition often sees the size of the investment required versus how that money could be spent elsewhere. Which is a totally reasonable question to ask.
So, it got me to thinking, beyond the economic stimulus for our local industries, what makes this proposal such a game-changer for the community?
Without doubt a stadium complex as proposed would enhance our ability to attract events of all shapes and sizes, from national sporting series like AFL, A-League Soccer, basketball and netball, to national tournaments, trade expos and touring concert artists.
Each of these events has the capacity to attract hundreds if not thousands of visitors to our region, often at times during the year when we need them the most.
This case has been proven consistently over the past 20-plus years during which time the city has been home to Hawthorn AFL games.
An increased stadium capacity and facilities would see us able to competitively argue the case for being home to a Tasmanian AFL team, and at the very least doubling the number of AFL games played here each year.
Expand that logic to other sporting codes, soccer, basketball and netball, and the business case for investing in the stadium makes sense, especially when considering the investment across a few decades.
Evidence suggests that the average daily spend for an interstate visitor to Tasmania attending an event is conservatively $200.
During a typical Hawthorn game weekend we know we host 3000-plus interstate visitors.
On average these footie fans spend a couple of days in and around the region. Basic maths would argue at least $1.2million in new money injected into our community per game.
A new stadium complex should be able to attract five times the number of major sporting events on similar values every year.
But it is not just the direct cash injection that is important.
Contemporary thinking in the tourism sector in Tasmania is now being led by sustainable principles. A triple bottom line consideration for major investments.
That is asking the question, will an investment provide economic, environmental and social returns to a community?
The indirect economic value of being a community renowned for hosting events adds to the city and region's appeal to attract visitors.
It's illustrative of a city that is vibrant, a city that celebrates through hosting events, whether they are sporting, food, music or art related.
This perception of a dynamic vibrant regional city lifestyle is attractive to any visitor planning to come to Tasmania for any reason.
Environmentally, arguably a modern facility will be more energy-efficient than one designed in the 20th century.
Upgrades in facilities, waste management, digital communications and internal systems would allow for a better environmental score card.
But the real returns to a community in investing in a stadium complex as proposed, lives within the social and health returns derived from both the events hosted and the sporting codes investing in the community that hosts them.
Hawthorn has proven their ability to promote participation in sport, which leads to more active healthy lifestyles, especially in young people.
The club has expanded its involvement in the community to support the Premier's Reading Challenge to help address the state literacy levels.
I have been privileged to work with the Tasmania bid team for the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023.
In considering Launceston as a venue, we discovered just how important creating a legacy of future sport participation in women was to the FIFA decision-makers.
Fingers crossed we learn soon if we were successful.
Imagine a (near) future where Launceston has meaningful relationships with multiple sporting codes, encouraging kids and adults to be more active, attending events to be inspired by their sporting heroes, and in doing so over time rely less upon our health system.
And let us not forget that the university's centres for sports excellence and allied health are part of this equation.
Facilities at the new stadium would contribute to advancing our next generation of professionals in the sports industries, be they athletes or in professions such physiotherapy, sports management, coaching and the like.
More than ever, I believe this is a game-changer opportunity for Northern Tasmania.
Yes, we have challenges in other parts of our society that deserve more assistance, but surely, we can have our cake and eat it too?
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