Rival project presented for AFL stadium in Hobart

A rival stadium project has emerged to the Tasmanian Government-backed venture that is designed to house a new Australian Football League (AFL) franchise in Hobart.

The project, under the name Stadia Precinct Consortia, has been drawn up by Paul Lennon, who was Tasmania’s Labor Premier between March 2004 and May 2008, and Tasmanian engineer Dean Coleman.

Whilst a new multi-purpose stadium with a retractable roof is at the heart of the proposal, the Consortia said its approach is to view the “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” as an Urban Renewal Project, with a forward-thinking and broader focus on the way Tasmanians live, work, and play.

With this mind, the Consortia has outlined plans for the site to house a private hospital, with an additional health facility in the initial design phase, residential development, meeting and convention facilities, hotel(s), restaurant/retail and other commercial tenancies.

The complex would be developed on further reclaimed land in the River Derwent, at a site previously targeted for the venture, using private sector financing. Plans to obtain an AFL franchise through a stadium complex at Macquarie Point were unveiled back in 2019. However, the Tasmanian authorities then switched focus to a site at Regatta Point before eventually reverting back to the nine-hectare Macquarie Point site, which was reported to be the AFL’s preferred site.

Coleman told broadcaster the ABC that the Consortia’s stadium project would cost A$750m (£391.6m/€451.8m/$477m), with the total development to cost $2.3bn, funded as a public-private partnership model.

“Those commercial developments actually inject the funds to pay for the peripherals of the stadium,” Coleman said. “That’s why our stadium is a A$750m project. The A$2.3bn is all the other commercial development around the precinct, but all of those commercial developments actually inject funds into the project.”

Coleman said his group is seeking international finance for the project, adding: “The stadium itself will be a public-private partnership. Tasmanian people will own the stadium from day one, and the rest of the development is just traditional investors investing in accommodation, commercial, hospitals and the like.”

The currently proposed stadium could boost the local economy by more than A$2.26bn over its first 10 years, according to a cost-benefit analysis of the controversial project that was released last month.

Construction of the A$715m waterfront stadium was a condition of the AFL granting a licence to Tasmania in May for a team that is lined up to enter the competition in 2028. However, the 23,000-seat roofed stadium deal, which is backed by the Liberal state government and terms of which were released later in May, has attracted vociferous opposition from locals.

The emergence of the new project comes after the government on Sunday released the draft Precinct Plan for the Macquarie Point venture. Premier and Minister for State Development, Jeremy Rockliff, said the draft Plan shows Macquarie Point will be an “integrated, vibrant and exciting region” for all Tasmanians to experience.

A blueprint for the urban renewal project, the draft plan will now be used to finalise the site’s layout and inform the masterplan. Rockliff said an order for the Project of State Significance will be tabled in parliament this week to get the project underway.

Hobart City Council has been among those critical of the state government’s plan in the belief it is an unsuitable and rushed use of available public land. Hobart Lord Mayor Anna Reynolds said of the alternative project: “It is a very serious proposal, it’s a serious consortium.

“I think it’s really good to have more than just the Macquarie Point proposal on the table. They’ve also really thought about some of the problems with building a stadium in that fairly limited space at Macquarie Point.”

However, Stadia and Events Minister Nic Street has countered the backers of the new project, highlighting that the contract for a Tasmanian AFL team requires a stadium at Macquarie Point.

“While we have been provided information on an alternative concept at Regatta Point that includes a stadium, there is no detailed business case or funding secured for what is an incredibly ambitious project,” he said.

“The alternative site proposed is owned by the Hobart City Council, not the Tasmanian government, and the scale of the proposal means it is far more complex and with that comes a higher level of risk. While we have always indicated we are open to private investor interest in a stadium, it is important that we are able to deliver on what has been committed to and by 2028.”