New 20,000 seat stadium would be 'game-changer' for Ipswich
A NEW 20,000-seat stadium would be a game-changer for not only Ipswich's sporting clubs but the city as a whole and the long mooted project is one step closer to becoming a reality.
Ipswich City Council announced it is seeking a qualified consultant or consortium of specialists to develop a business case and concept design for a sporting, recreational and entertainment precinct at North Ipswich Reserve.
The centrepiece of the facility would be a rectangular stadium capable of seating up to 20,000 people for NRL or A-League competition.
Budget for the business case is about $175,000 and the council is expected to target major national companies to prepare it next month.
Earlier this year the council committed $10million to the early-stage development of the stadium, subject to conditions, including similar financial contributions from the State and Federal governments.
The stadium was expected to cost between $215million and $220million but an earlier feasibility study revealed it could be done in five separate stages.
North Ipswich Reserve has been subject to investigations pertaining to its development into a rectangular stadium for almost 20 years.
The council's general manager of economic development, Ben Pole, said a redeveloped stadium would give the city "the ideal pitch" for a new NRL or A-League franchise, while also being able to host major events.
"Such a stadium would provide significant economic and social benefit to Ipswich, providing a platform to attract elite sporting events and major non-sporting events such as concerts and entertainment-style events," he said.
"This project requires further investigations to determine council's potential commitment to the progression of (the precinct)."
Queensland great Johnathan Thurston has backed calls for the next NRL team to be based in Ipswich and Western Pride remain confident of a place in the A-League with future expansion on the cards.
Mr Pole said a local side representing the western corridor in premier national competition could have a similar impact on the community the way the Western Sydney Wanderers did in Parramatta after it was established in 2012.
"Since their inception into the competition, Parramatta has had a 200 per cent increase in patronage at Pirtek Stadium, which included the council's upgrade of the venue, hosting key community events and advocating to the NSW Government of the value of investment into the area," he said.
"Delivery of the business case will enable informed decision making by support bids for football (soccer) and rugby league teams entry into national competitions.
"The SEQ Council of Mayor's investigations into the 2032 Olympic bid provide an opportunity to examine the feasibility of integral infrastructure for the Ipswich region."
A lack of a stadium was the only "stumbling block" in Western Pride's failed A-League bid last year.
General manager Pat Boyle said there was "no doubt" a new 20,000-seat stadium at the North Ipswich Reserve would strengthen future efforts.
"Although we were shortlisted, our only stumbling block was the fact we didn't have any commitment to a stadium," he said.
"That's feedback from the FFA. Going forward (a new stadium) will put us in a very strong position."
Mr Boyle, who has been involved with the club since its start in 2012, said securing the infrastructure goes beyond sporting interests.
"For the whole region, I think it's very important. The region needs this facility," he said.
"There needs to be some decent infrastructure going into Ipswich to gain interest within the city. If we're able to obtain a 20,000-seat stadium, not only would it be good for sporting activities like (rugby) league, union or football, it would bring entrainment to the region.
"It opens up a totally different avenue to the city and then gains interest from outside areas.
"I think it's a definite positive. We're now all working together as a group, that being different entities within Ipswich.
"We're all working together for a common goal."
Ipswich Jets CEO Richard Hughes said such an upgrade would be "extremely welcomed" by the club.
"It would give a wonderful opportunity for the Jets to play in a state-of-the-art new ground," he said.
"It's something we wholeheartedly support.
"When that (NRL bid) conversation comes up, one of those things they look at is infrastructure. "That's something that would certainly be a benefit to us as a part of our bid."