Do Tasmanians really want a brand new stadium?



Do the political elites really know what is best for a city by committing huge sums of public funds to a project at a time when the majority of Tasmanians do not want a new stadium, despite their desire for a Tasmanian AFL team?

When the Prime Minister was asked at a press conference on April 29 why the stadium was moving forward in the face of public opposition, he noted the prowess of political leaders knowing what was best for the national interest.

How arrogant and how unconvincing at a time when many Tasmanians and Australians are struggling to meet their higher daily cost of living needs.

Did Tasmania need a shiny new $715m stadium to attract the expected crowds that would accompany it as it became the AFL’s 19th team, now made possible by the Tasmanian government committing $375m and the Commonwealth government $240 million?

Rather than taking sides on how this public money should be spent, with a recent suggestion that the same proposed Hobart site could feature 1000 houses, a swimming pool and a relocated state library at a cost of around 400 millions of dollars, let’s look at the facts in terms of football fans to decide if a new stadium is warranted.

Hobart is not building a stadium (27,000 capacity) that is light years away from the existing expected standard needed to host a weekly football match and attract fans.

After all, North Melbourne and Hawthorn have played AFL home games at the existing stadiums of Hobart and Launceston for a number of years with reasonable crowds that have visited such decent stadiums that already have capacity of 19,500 and 19,000 places.

University of Tasmania Stadium in Launceston. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Such grounds could easily make the necessary adjustments to reach a higher capacity of 27,000 in line with growing demand given the high likelihood that many more Tasmanians will support a home side rather than North Melbourne and Hawthorn.

It also makes sense that the two existing stadiums will continue to share AFL games, in the same way that Sydney has two NRL teams playing home games in different regions to accommodate their fans (Wests Tigers and St George Illawarra).

As it stands, the Prime Minister of Tasmania has said that the existing AFL use stadium in Launceston will still host four AFL matches once the new Hobart stadium is built, although he also acknowledges that the AFL’s cooperation with appliances will be required.

What has been good enough for Sydney with its 5 million people also makes sense for Tasmania with a relatively paltry population of just 570,000, Hobart and Launceston having around 250,000 and 100,000 respectively.

The AFL requires a new stadium, while allowing the Western Bulldogs to play a few games in a fairly ordinary Mars Stadium (11,000 capacity) compared to Tasmania’s existing football stadiums in Hobart and Launceston.

Why is the AFL hosting games in Darwin and Alice Springs, given their limited capacities and facilities with capacities of 12,500 and 7,500?

Will the AFL insist that Canberra also build an expensive new stadium if it is to host an AFL team, although Manuka Oval is also improving its facilities over the years in line with existing demand (current capacity of 16,000 seats)?

Of course, down the track, the two existing stadiums in Tasmania would also need to be upgraded, and perhaps a new stadium justified in time due to growing demand or logistical reasons.

The political elites were wrong to support the AFL’s demand for a new stadium, particularly in light of the lack of public support from most Tasmanians.

In these tougher economic times, it would be much wiser for political elites to consider backing proposals to develop old and new stadiums in line with existing public demand rather than insisting on a shiny new stadium just to pleasure, one where a very expensive ground can only host seven AFL home games a year as long as Launceston rightfully remains in the AFL equation.



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