Apr 4, 2016

Coalition must back Townsville Stadium

Malcolm Turnbull must provide certainty for North Queensland rugby league fans by matching Labor’s $100 million pledge toward the construction of a new football stadium in Townsville.

While federal and state Labor have each committed $100 million toward the proposed stadium, the only thing standing in the way is the Federal Coalition’s refusal to back this important project.

After talks in Townsville today with Labor’s candidate for Herbert, Cathy O’Toole, I’m more convinced than ever that Townsville’s rugby league community is ready for a new stadium and that support for the Cowboys, who won last year’s NRL Premiership, is more than strong enough to justify the investment.

The Prime Minister needs to understand that a new stadium in Townsville is not only about improving facilities for Cowboys fans, but also offers major spinoffs for the entire North Queensland economy.

With Cowboys supporters already famous for driving hundreds of kilometres to watch their team play, a state-of-the-art stadium will encourage more diehard fans to come to Townsville from surrounding communities on weekends.

Just as importantly, a 21st century stadium would also increase the attraction for rugby league fans from southern Queensland and interstate to head north to support their teams when they play in Townsville.

The distances involved mean such visitors could be enticed to extend their stays to the benefit of the North Queensland tourism sector.

The existing 1300SMILES Stadium is 17 kilometres from the city and its roof covers only 15 per cent of the 17,700 seats.

The proposed new stadium would be 1km from the Townsville CBD and provide roof coverage for more than 25,000 seats.

It would reinvigorate a city that has been hit hard by the effects of drought and the economic downturn.

In my talks with Townsville Enterprise, the Townsville Chamber of Commerce and Townsville City Council, it is clear to me there is strong support for this project.

Labor committed $100 million toward the stadium last November.

It’s time for Mr Turnbull to get on board.