Ipswich stadium dream’s biggest barrier
BUILDING a sports stadium in Ipswich capable of seating more than 20,000 people as part of a wider entertainment precinct is largely dependant on the city securing NRL and A-League licenses, according to reports commissioned by the council.
After years of waiting, the project still appears to be a long way from coming to fruition.
Ipswich City Council still needs to secure funding from both other levels of government for a detailed business case, which would enable the project to be shovel-ready.
With the state and federal governments set to sink $1 billion into redeveloping the Gabba ahead of the proposed 2032 Olympics in south east Queensland, they may not have the “appetite” to invest more money for stadium in Ipswich in the next decade.
A report outlining the strategic business case and options analysis for the long-awaited North Ipswich Sport and Entertainment Precinct will be discussed by members of the council’s Growth, Infrastructure and Waste Committee at Thursday’s meeting.
The precinct would be located at the North Ipswich Reserve, a council-owned asset which can host up to 10,000 people.
The ground and facilities are used under agreement by the Ipswich Jets, Rugby League Ipswich and Queensland Rugby League and has hosted NRL trial matches and soccer pre-season games over the years.
Transforming the North Ipswich Reserve into a boutique rectangular stadium has been investigated by Ipswich City Council since the early 2000s and it was declared a regionally significant project in April last year.
A report by council officers notes the reserve in its current form is “acting as a barrier” to attracting national level sport games and major concert events.
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The city’s population is set to more than double to 560,000 by 2041 but it does not have a stadium, entertainment centre or convention centre like other metro centres in Queensland of similar sizes.
“A population of this size should have adequate social infrastructure and the ability to retain sporting and entertainment expenditure within its region,” the report notes.
“Ipswich is under-provisioned in social infrastructure capable of hosting major sports and non-sports events.
“This results in under-investment from private organisations, low in-bound tourism and flow-on adverse impacts to tourism adjacent industries, particularly within Ipswich Central.”
The strategic business case was presented by consultant firm RPS Group in early 2020 but not to the council.
“It concluded that there was latent opportunity to elevate Ipswich through the attraction and retention of a national sporting franchise in NRL or football (soccer) and is likely to be realised in the short-medium term if there was a commitment made to a major regional outdoor stadium capacity of 20,000-25,000 seats,” the council report notes.
The options analysis cut 10 potential options down to two stadium designs.
The first option would have a total capacity of 12,000 people and cost $209.48 million to build.
The study estimated it could host between 37-41 events a year and bring in up to 303,000 people annually.
The larger second option could hold 20,400 people and could cost $236.06 million to construct.
It is estimated up to 328,000 people would pass through the gates annually and it could host up to 29 events a year.
“Both option one and option two result in annual operating losses of $1.35m and $1.47m respectively,” the council report notes.
“This is in line with the performance of comparable venues with similar event profiles.
“When infrastructure investment is considered, a cost-benefit ratio equal or above indicates that benefits outweigh the cost.
“Option two achieves a CBR of 0.44, and option two achieves a CBR of 0.42. These CBRs are considered consistent with other social infrastructure and stadiums. For comparison, Queensland Country Bank Stadium (North Queensland Stadium) achieved a CBR of 0.214.”
The options analysis recommended the development of a detailed business case.
Business cases completed so far found that “any stadium redevelopment of North Ipswich Reserve was predicated on two anchor tenants in national sporting competitions to drive activation.”
The council procured a Sporting Expansion Situational Review and Opportunities Analysis report to gain a an insight into plans by the Brisbane Jets and the Western Pride to gain licences into the NRL and A-League respectively.
The potential Jets NRL franchise would run independently of the current Ipswich Jets club and play its games at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.
While most of the information gathered in the analysis is confidential, it found the Jets have a “competitive and strong bid” and recommended the council work closely with the club in finalising plans for training and administration facilities at North Ipswich Reserve as a “priority.”
The Pride’s bid is in something of a limbo as a result of dropping out of the National Premier Leagues Queensland competition.
“The Western Pride Football Club through the Greater Ipswich Expansion Bid previously bid for A-League licences and was considered to have a strong proposition due to the regional population growth, participation and engagement rates and existing relationships with other clubs,” the council report notes.
“The lack of suitable facilities to meet A-League standards was a key factor in the bid being unsuccessful.
“The new competition governance and restructuring of the football competition (the newly created Australian Professional League) in Australia presents some risks and provides uncertainty to future expansion requirements, standards and time frames.”
The report notes without two national sporting franchises to serve as anchor tenants for the precinct, there is a “significant risk” it would not stack up financially.
Attracting one-off events could help to fill the gap in the meantime and raise the city’s profile according to the report, with major sporting codes now “shopping” games to be hosted at non-traditional venues.
The fee to attract an NRL regular season game is estimated to be anywhere between $150,000-$300,000 and as much as $100,000 for a pre-season fixture.
The cost of hosting an A-League game is estimated at up to $150,000.
“Council has been advocating to both state and federal governments for financial assistance to support the delivery of the detailed business case,” it states.
“The state government is proposing a $1 billion redevelopment of the Gabba to serve the 2032 Olympics with the assistance of the federal government.
“As a result, state and federal government may not have appetite for regional stadia investment within the ten years.
“Further financial and resourcing implications for Brisbane Jets bid support and once-off event attraction require further scoping.
“Proposals will be brought to council for consideration once investigations are undertaken.
“However, due to the stadium being most feasible with the attraction of two national sporting licences, it is suggested that short-term actions be geared towards supporting local proponents in meeting bid requirements.”
Council officers recommended that the council continue to support the Jets and the Pride in their bid processes and engage further with the NRL and A-League in regards to attracting games to Ipswich in the “short term”.
Read more stories by Lachlan McIvor here.