Design & Development

MoU signed for UTAS Stadium ownership transfer, upgrade plans announced

Featured image credit: Infrastructure Tasmania

The City of Launceston and the state government in Tasmania have signed a Memorandum of Understanding on future AFL and AFL Women’s content in the city ahead of the proposed transfer of ownership of UTAS Stadium, as more details were revealed on the redevelopment of the venue.

The MoU has been signed today (Monday) ahead of the proposed transfer of UTAS Stadium to the new state government entity, Stadiums Tasmania. The stadium is currently owned and operated by the City of Launceston, but following an extensive public consultation process, the city council is considering the transfer of ownership to the new entity.

Last year, the council endorsed the draft MoU, which reinforces the intention to, at minimum, retain the current level of AFL and AFL Women’s content at UTAS Stadium, both before and after the introduction of a Tasmanian AFL club.

In May last year, Tasmania ended a long-running effort to secure an AFL franchise after it was awarded a licence for a club that will play at a new stadium in Hobart, which is around 200km from Launceston. The men’s team is expected to enter the competition in 2028, with a proposed timeline for a women’s team entry being worked through.

Before the new stadium in Hobart is delivered, the franchise is expected to play home games at UTAS Stadium or Hobart’s Bellerive Oval. UTAS Stadium already hosts a handful of AFL matches involving Hawthorn FC each year.

Today’s announcement comes after the Tasmanian state government yesterday detailed the next step in plans to upgrade UTAS Stadium, which has a current capacity of around 19,000. The Australian and Tasmanian governments have each committed A$65m (£34m/€39m/$42m) towards the redevelopment of the venue.

As well as a new eastern stand and plaza entry, the revamp of the stadium will include a new centre-west stand, an upgrade to match-day facilities, sport lighting upgrades and a new LED ribbon board.

The project also includes new corporate and hospitality facilities, food and beverage outlets and patron amenities on the eastern and western sides of the stadium, along with improved facilities for fans.

Construction is expected to begin in late 2024, and the project is set to be completed in 2027.

Commenting on the new MoU, Mayor of Launceston Matthew Garwood said: “Before we consider any formal transfer of ownership, the City of Launceston has been really keen to ensure this development of a Memorandum of Understanding with the state government expressing clear commitments around future content at UTAS Stadium.

“While the Stadiums Tasmania Act 2022 specifies that Stadiums Tasmania must continue to attract and deliver international and national sporting, entertainment and events content, we’re hopeful this Memorandum of Understanding will give additional assurance to our community that council and state government are committed to growing content at UTAS Stadium under a new management model, long into the future.”

Addressing the redevelopment of the stadium, Garwood added: “The upcoming decision on the transfer of ownership of UTAS Stadium will pave the way for the significant investment committed by the Tasmanian and federal governments and ensure continued professional and community usage of the facility.

“The funding commitment for the upgrade and expansion of UTAS Stadium recognises the venue’s importance as a sporting and entertainment venue – one which demonstrates ongoing economic, social and cultural benefits to our city and region.”

Nic Street, Minister for Stadia and Events in Tasmania, said: “These upgrades of the UTAS stadium will not only improve the overall experience of players and attendees, it will deliver significant economic knock-on effects for the wider community here in Launceston and provide a state-of-the-art, accessible facility for entertainment, sporting and cultural gatherings.

“We are proud to deliver this upgrade and to be supporting the City of Launceston’s vision to make the city a premier location as not just a sporting and entertainment location but also a business, retail and lifestyle hub.”

Last week, a rival stadium project that has emerged to the Tasmanian government-backed venture to house the new AFL team in Hobart gained the backing of Hobart City Council. Construction of a new stadium was a condition of the AFL granting a licence to Tasmania, but a state government-backed proposal has attracted strong opposition from locals in Hobart.