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‘Global events taskforce’ looms over stadium battle lines

March 14, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Battle lines are being drawn in Sydney over the shock NSW plan to knock down and rebuild two comparatively new, working sports stadiums at a cost of up to AUD 2.7 billion – and tourism bodies so far seem squarely in the “knock them down” corner.

Sydney’s Daily Telegraph yesterday reported plans by interested groups to put together a “Global Events Taskforce” to work alongside Destination NSW to attract major sporting events, targeting five big international tournaments.

The idea is to make sure that the new stadiums are filled with the biggest and most prominent global sporting events. That involves knocking down the existing stadiums: Sydney Olympic Park’s ANZ Stadium and the Allianz Stadium at Moore Park. The cost was cited as AUD 2.3 billion but the Australian has reported that the cost of Sydney’s Allianz Stadium knockdown and rebuild has blown out by up to AUD 200 million, putting the cost of the package at AUD 2.7 billion.

Peter FitzSimons

Critics are asking how the NSW Government can spend such an eye-watering sum to obliterate two working stadiums, both fairly new, and then build replacements.

Chief among the scheme’s detractors is Peter FitzSimons, “the man in the red bandana”. FitzSimons, journalist, radio and television presenter and author, knows a fair bit about stadiums, having played in many with the Australian Wallabies national Rugby team. He has got a petition underway to try and stop the proposal.

In the other corner, the Tourism & Transport Forum Australia (TTF) came out yesterday in full support of the proposed demolition and the Global Events Taskforce concept, which it says will “position Sydney as the new major events capital of the world”.

TTF chief executive Margy Osmond said a designated taskforce, combined with the NSW Government’s investment into critical sporting and cultural infrastructure, will ensure Sydney remains internationally competitive in attracting the world’s showpiece sporting and cultural events.

“Sydney cannot be a world-class major events destination without a suite of world-class stadia,” Osmond said.

“Our stadia has served us very well, but the reality is that without the NSW Government’s investment into Sydney Olympic Park’s ANZ Stadium, Allianz Stadium at Moore Park and Parramatta Stadium, Sydney will not be able to compete for the world’s biggest events.”

Alliance Stadium, set for demolition

The Parramatta reference is to the Western Sydney Stadium, which is under construction.

“With these refurbished, state-of-the-art stadia, Sydney will be able to confidently put its hand up to bid for any major global event, whether it be the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, or the Soccer and Rugby World Cups,” Osmond said.

“This infrastructure will also complement Sydney’s reputation as a world-class business events destination that has taken off since the opening of the International Convention Centre (ICC), and enhance the long-standing work undertaken by Destination NSW to promote NSW as Australia’s number one state to visit.”

Osmond said investment in sporting and cultural infrastructure to lure more major events was vital to growing the state’s AUD 33 billion visitor economy, “which directly supports over 164,000 jobs in areas like food and beverage, retail and accommodation”.

More than 100,000 international visitors travel to Australia specifically to attend a cultural or sporting event each year, she said.

ANZ Stadium, set for demolition

Others see it differently, pointing out that both venues are quite new. The Olympic Park ANZ venue was purpose-built as the main stadium and centrepiece for the Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games, proclaimed as “the jewel in the crown of the most successful summer Olympics ever held”. Has so much changed in the 18 years since it opened? critics ask.

The Alliance Stadium in Moore Park is just 29 years old.

FitzSimons started his petition to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Change.org. It aims to get 300,000 signatures and at last glance had passed the 270,000 mark and was closing fast on the target.

FitzSimons’ petition states: “We, the undersigned, respectfully call on the Premier of NSW, Gladys Berejiklian, and the NSW Cabinet, to reconsider their decision to knock down two perfectly fine sports stadiums – the Olympic Stadium and Sydney Football Stadium – at a staggering cost of AUD 2 billion, to replace them with new ones, at a time when there is ZERO public demand to replace either.

“We are tired of taxpayer dollars being lavished on building facilities for Sports Big Business, while community sport withers on the vine for lack of facilities and resources.

“We, the undersigned concerned citizens of NSW, believe our money could be better spent with the likes of 100 x $10 million projects being funded across the state, so towns, suburbs and regions could see a thousand fields, pools, courts and arenas bloom, doing something for the wider people of NSW and not merely the tiny percentage involved in elite sport.

“We believe some of the money could be used to lower registration fees for kids playing a variety of sports, to remove the obstacles that prevent so many from participating.

“This would still allow nearly a billion dollars left over to refurbish the current stadiums, and put much-needed money into other community resources, like schools, hospitals, theatres, galleries, homeless shelters and the like.

“Again, we say, Premier Berejiklian, please reconsider.

“Thank you, The Concerned Citizens of NSW.”

So that’s the two arguments. Which side do you support?

Written by Peter Needham

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