Crowd capacity at UTAS Stadium could be increased ahead of Sunday's history-making match between Hawthorn and Essendon, with a decision around relaxing border restrictions expected in the coming days.
Premier Peter Gutwein said Public Health were considering requests from both clubs to increase standing room capacity, which would see crowd numbers capped at 16,000 people.
UTAS Stadium has a capacity for about 20,000 people. However, the 100 per cent seating capacity limit currently imposed caps crowds at 14,000.
Mr Gutwein said the government would like to see this increased slightly, and encouraged all Tasmanians and interstate travellers to "turn up in droves" to Sunday's game.
"We won't do anything that's not safe, or that's not recommended by Public Health," he said.
"I would hope we would have more clarity in the next couple of days as to whether or not our borders to metropolitan Melbourne, to greater Melbourne, could open before the weekend. But we won't know until those conversations have taken place."
Sunday's game at UTAS Stadium, along with the match between North Melbourne and Brisbane at Blundstone Arena on Saturday, also coincides with Dark MOFO in Hobart.
Victoria reported two new local coronavirus cases on Tuesday, with travel between Metropolitan Melbourne and Tasmania restricted to essential travellers only.
City of Launceston Mayor Albert van Zetten said while many Hawthorn supporters often travelled from Melbourne for Tasmania-based games, he expected crowd numbers would remain strong regardless of whether borders reopen in time.
"We are not sure at this stage whether they [people from Melbourne] will be able to come," he said. "But I'm sure there will be supporters from regional Victoria, other places in NSW and from Hobart as well who want to come up and spend a weekend in the best city in Australia. A game of football is worth $5 million-plus to the economy and we think this will be the biggest game yet."
With the AFL set to release its review into the business case for a Tasmanian team next month, Mr van Zetten said Sunday presented an opportunity for the state to further strengthen its case.
"That's what this is going to really be about. Making a statement to the AFL that if we get the great teams here, this bigger teams ... we've been saying it for some time, that we will get the crowds here as well," he said.
"So encouraging people to come out, support this game, whatever the capacity is going to be on the day. We hope it's somewhere around 15,000 - we want everybody to come. Fill all the seats, fill all the areas and come and enjoy what will be a fantastic game."
While attendances for AFL games already held at UTAS Stadium and Blundstone Arena this year have been much lower than previous years, Mr Gutwein hit back at suggestions the state was at risk of being "oversaturated".
"I don't think you can ever get enough AFL ... to be clear, with two teams of the stature of Hawthorn and Essendon playing here on Sunday, I think there is a compelling case, a compelling reason to turn up ...," he said.
Mr Gutwein said Tasmania's bid for a team relied on more than just crowd numbers.
"I think crowd numbers are one part of it, but I think our business case stands alone," he said. "To be frank, I think the case has been made. It's a compelling case for our own team and I look forward to the Colin Carter report being handed down next month."
Tickets for members are expected to go on sale today. Among those gunning for a seat is Chris Nobes, of St Leonards, who has been a loyal Bombers fan for almost four decades.
Mr Nobes never dreamed he would be able to see his team play for premiership points right in his backyard, and said he was even more excited at the opportunity to introduce his four-year-old son Henry to the game.
"With everything going on with COVID, I wasn't sure when we would get the chance to get back to a game," he said. "It's just super exciting and I know it's going to be a really memorable experience for both of us."
- WHAT: Hawthorn v Essendon
- WHERE: UTAS Stadium
- WHEN: Sunday, June 20
- TICKETS: On sale Wednesday for members. General public will need to wait until 10am Thursday, through Ticketmaster.
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