EVENT tourism, particularly sports events tourism, generates big dollars for the Western Australian economy each year.
International sporting events such as the Hyundai Hopman Cup attract up to 80,000 people over the eight days and Telstra Rally Australia pumps $20 million into local coffers.
With the future of Burswood Dome uncertain after 2007, and the ongoing need for a substantial indoor venue to fill the void left by the defunct Perth Entertainment Centre, there has been increasing speculation about the level of Perth’s events infrastructure.
While not all sports pundits agree with the strongly held view of ABC sports commentator Wally Foreman that WA needs a larger capacity venue than Subiaco Oval, it is widely recognised that work is required if Perth is to match the recent investments in sporting infrastructure by other States.
Tangible steps are indeed being made towards upgrading sport infrastructure.
The State Government has invested in a number of sports facility redevelopments, including Leederville Oval, which will have a new capacity of 8,000 people, and Perth Oval, which will be upgraded to cater for 19,500 fans.
WACA chairman Charles Fear believes there has been too much ad hoc development of sporting stadiums in Perth.
Mr Fear said now was the time to start planning for the long term.
“In 2015 to 2020, we need to invest in a sporting precinct like at Homebush in Sydney or around the MCG in Melbourne,” Mr Fear said. “We need to ensure we get relevant bodies to sign up for the facilities now.”
Currently there is talk of restructuring land surrounding Challenge Stadium into a regional sports precinct by the Departments of Sport and Recreation and Planning and Infrastructure.
The proposal would tie in with plans by the Town of Cambridge to demolish Perry Lakes stadium and build replacement rugby, basketball and athletics venues in the nearby AK reserve.
It is expected that the State Government will contribute funds to construct a regional athletics stadium.
Department of Sport and Recreation spokesman Graham Brimage said the DPI had recognised the potential of the precinct and was exploring a macro-planning strategy for a restructure of the area.
He said there were arguments for and against consolidation of sports infrastructure.
“The economics of the Home-bush area aren’t that sensational,” Mr Brimage told WA Business News.
When planning sport infrastructure, he said, changes in the competitive sport market had to be taken into account.
For example, he said there was a growing move by national sporting organisations to approach State governments for event funding in exchange for locating their national championships in that State for a set number of years rather than moving the event around the nation.
Mr Brimage said issues of fairness about locating a regional sporting precinct in the western suburbs also had to be considered.
Central to the proposed sports precinct is Challenge Stadium, which is currently undergoing a needs assessment review to identify what infrastructure and investment is required to improve the income generation of the centre, as well as catering for elite athletes.
Challenge Stadium centre manager Rob Verboon said WA’s sports facilities had been surpassed by those in other States.
Mr Verboon said WA was the only State not to have a dedicated State netball centre. WA has not held a national open swimming event since 1995, he said.
The current review would help identify what can be run within the facility and new facilities could be implemented.
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