Design & Development

Australian government backs Tasmania’s AFL stadium project

Featured image credit: Jeremy Rockliff

Australia’s federal government has pledged to provide A$240m (£129m/€147m/$161m) towards an AFL stadium project in Hobart, Tasmania, while it has also committed an extra A$65m for the redevelopment of Launceston’s UTAS Stadium.

In a statement released over the weekend, the government said the investment in the Hobart project, which will form part of its 2023-24 Budget, will help unlock the potential of the Macquarie Point precinct.

The Tasmanian government will develop a refreshed precinct plan that stretches from Macquarie Point to crown land at Regatta Point. Housing will form a central part of the broader precinct, with crown land at Regatta Point to be developed through a public-private partnership.

The project will seek to deliver on the priorities of Hobart locals, with the federal and state governments to work with First Nations groups, Hobart City Council and RSL Tasmania to ensure all existing and proposed uses respect the history of the site and region.

The Tasmanian government has already pledged A$375m to the project, with the AFL itself to contribute A$15m. Reports last week claimed that the federal government funding will be used to facilitate the construction of the stadium by paying for associated remediation work and housing for low-wage workers such as nurses, which will be part of the precinct.

Following the federal government’s announcement of funding for the project, AFL club presidents met today (Tuesday) to approve Tasmania’s entry into the league. AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan will be in Tasmania tomorrow, when an official announcement is expected to be made.

The Tasmania government presented its business case for the project back in December after it reached an in-principle agreement with the AFL for the creation of a new team in the state.

The stadium is expected to have a capacity of around 23,000, but it is believed that it will not feature a roof, which has previously been part of the plans. If the stadium was to be completely covered it would not be able to host Test cricket matches under ICC rules, which some claim would make the costs of the stadium unviable.

Cricket Australia and Cricket Tasmania have welcomed the federal government’s funding announcement, stating that the project presents a “fantastic opportunity” for cricket in the state.

Cricket Australia has committed to ongoing discussions about the new stadium and any potential impact it may have on future cricket content and infrastructure, including the existing 20,000-capacity Blundstone Arena, which hosts international matches.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said: “This exciting precinct plan will provide real affordable housing for Tasmanians, real jobs and new transport solutions. This sets up Macquarie Point as the future jewel in the crown for Hobart. A place where people can live, work and come together.”

Jeremy Rockliff, Premier of Tasmania, added: “The Urban Renewal project has a multi-purpose stadium at its core, which will inspire economic activity around it and strengthen our economy for decades to come. It will be a unique destination to attract visitors to our state, and will finally mean Tassie can host events that have previously bypassed the state. It creates certainty for investment and thousands of new jobs which will give young people a reason to stay in Tasmania.”

Projections are for the planning phase to be completed by late 2024, a contractor appointed in early 2025 and construction complete by mid-2028.

In other news, the Australian government has committed to providing A$65m towards the redevelopment of UTAS Stadium in Launceston, Tasmania. The sum matches the commitment already made by the Tasmanian government.

The funding injection means that the first two stages of the project can be completed. Stage-one works are expected to be completed in early 2025, with a new stage-two work programme to be planned with input from stakeholders.

Rockliff announced in January that UTAS Stadium would be upgraded, with the stage-one plans including a new Eastern Stand, improved facilities and an entertainment precinct to enhance the pre-game experience. AFL team Hawthorn plays four matches a year at UTAS Stadium, which also stages cricket and football.

City of Launceston Mayor Danny Gibson said: “I am delighted by today’s announcement by Prime Minister Albanese to provide A$65m funding for stage-two redevelopment and expansion of UTAS Stadium – improving the amenity of the ground as well as the seating capacity for the fans is certainly a priority from the council’s perspective.

“From the council’s perspective, today’s announcement is the culmination of a significant body of work we have undertaken since the last federal election to realise our vision for the redevelopment of University of Tasmania Stadium.

“This now brings the commitment from the state and feds to A$130m for UTAS Stadium. That’s a significant investment into Launceston both from a sporting and economic perspective, particularly for local civil contractors.”