Sunshine Coast Council has approved an expansion plan for Sunshine Coast Stadium which could ultimately see the Australian venue more than double in seating capacity.

Council has today (Friday) approved a concept design for an initial Aus$68m (£35.1m/€42.1m/$47.1m) expansion to the stadium, which would increase fixed seating capacity from 1,046 to 11,618 seats.

The initial expansion will boost the overall venue capacity from 12,000 to 16,618 in stage one, with a new eastern grandstand (8,085 seats) and an expanded western grandstand (increased to 3,533 seats). Mounds at the southern and northern ends of the stadium will remain to accommodate around 5,000 spectators.

Council also agreed to commit Aus$17m towards the project, subject to matching funding being secured from each of the Queensland and federal governments, along with other sources. Sunshine Coast Council Mayor Mark Jamieson said council will now seek support from those parties to make up the balance of the funding required.

“This design provides 10,572 extra seats initially, at a cost of approximately Aus$6,400 per seat which compares favourably with other recent and upcoming stadium developments in Australia and overseas which exceed the Aus$10,000 per seat cost,” Jamieson said. “If all funding can be secured, works on the expansion will start in October 2021 with construction expected to take 15 months.

“Key drivers of the project design have been to create a fan-friendly experience, improved operational efficiency, the ability to meet the requirements of key sporting codes from NRL (National Rugby League), A-League, rugby union as well as those of other live entertainment events such as music concerts. Importantly however, is the focus on delivering a venue concept that responds to the needs that will be generated by our community as it continues to grow.”

In addition to extra seating, other improvements will be incorporated including improved access to food and beverage outlets and public amenities in the western grandstand, and improved athlete amenities such as warm-up and recovery areas, including cold and warm recovery pools, and a team auditorium.

The architectural team appointed by the Council has also developed a final desired state for the stadium including development of north and south grandstands at a future date. This will allow seating capacity to grow to about 23,400 over time. Council said costing for further stages have not yet been finalised.

Jamieson said the Sunshine Coast was evolving as one of Australia’s leading city regions and while the region is attracting and staging national sport and entertainment events, a stadium with the appropriate capacity and functionality to support these types of events is a “missing piece” of the core economic and community infrastructure for a region of its size and projected growth.

Council, with support from Tourism Events Queensland, has a three-year contract with the South Sydney Rabbitohs to host one regular season NRL game in each of 2019, 2020 and 2021. Council again partnered with the state government to secure the Women’s NRL State of Origin fixture at Sunshine Coast Stadium in June 2020.

In addition, Council has secured other large events for the stadium, such as one Cronulla Sharks NRL fixture for each of the 2020 and 2021 seasons, and two Elton John concerts scheduled for March 2020.

“Council wants to ensure our region realises its full potential as a major events destination and to meet our vision for the Sunshine Coast to be Australia’s most sustainable region – healthy, smart, creative,” Jamieson added. “Having in place the appropriate facilities to enable this to occur is a critical element.”

The plans have been welcomed by NRL CEO Todd Greenberg, while Rabbitohs chief executive Blake Solly said with stadium improvements either recently completed or planned for Sydney and other regional locations, it was important Sunshine Coast Stadium’s infrastructure was improved to maintain its status as an NRL suitable venue.

“In particular, increased seating and corporate areas will allow council or the event holder to increase the commercial returns on any event,” Solly said. “This will ensure that the Sunshine Coast remains competitive in any bidding or tender process for the allocation of NRL matches.”

Images: Sunshine Coast Council