TROPIC NOW EXCLUSIVE
New concept plans for a 20,000-seat rectangular stadium would transform Barlow Park and surrounding areas into a sporting mecca for Cairns.
A group of business leaders and lobby group Enterprise North has presented the concept plan to Cairns councillors, proposing a $180 million rectangular stadium and sporting precinct from Barlow Park to the old Bunnings site on Spence St.
But Mayor Bob Manning needs to pick up the ball and run with it.
Advocates have funded a fly-through video (watch the video below), architectural drawings, artist's impressions, community survey and estimated costings to reignite the decade-old debate about a rectangular stadium in the city.
Along with the 20,000-seat rectangular stadium redevelopment at Barlow Park, the sporting precinct proposal also includes:
- New indoor sports centre and two-storey carpark at the old Bunnings site
- Various upgrades to Cairns Showground facilities
- New sporting field and athletics track at the Showgrounds
- Community dog park
- New tennis centre
Enterprise North's Kevin Byrne told Tropic Now all levels of government should contribute $60 million each over a three-year budget cycle.
$130 million would be used to fund the rectangular stadium development, with the $50 million balance funding other components of the precinct proposal.
The $130 million estimate for the rectangular stadium pales in comparison to Townsville’s $293 million North Queensland Stadium project, opened earlier this year.
LOTS OF TALK, LITTLE ACTION
The new push for a rectangular stadium puts the project back on the agenda after almost a decade of fruitless debate and consultation - along with some $300,000 in consultancy fees and reports.
In 2011, Cairns Regional Council commissioned a $100,000 feasibility study on a stadium for the city. Despite identifying significant demand for a stadium and 20 potential locations, momentum for the project quietly fizzled out.
In the lead-up to the 2016 council election, the stadium was a key promise of Cr Manning's Unity Team campaign. At the time, he told local media: "I will go as far as saying there will be a new stadium within the next term of council. I can say, hand on heart, we are moving towards it.”
Once elected in March of that year, the Unity-led council commissioned another study - this time costing $200,000 - into the project.
But after the study found a Cairns stadium would not stack up financially, along with fierce opposition from the Cairns Show Association who were concerned they'd be relocated, the project was again shelved.
TIMING IS RIGHT
Mr Byrne believes the time is now right to seek funding, stop the dithering and get on with delivering the sporting precinct vision.
"In presenting this proposal, we are mindful that in the immediate post COVID landscape, governments are likely to prioritise larger commitments of funding to those projects that demonstrate community need, Local Government support, phased project implementation and a local ability to deliver the project," he said.
"This ticks all those boxes and by comparison to similar stadium projects, can be delivered at a fraction of the cost. We believe there is an opportunity now to tap into grant funding from the Commonwealth Government Department of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development to be matched by counterpart funding from the State Government and matched by Cairns Regional Council whose contribution would include the land component.
"This will not only be a stadium for rectangular sporting events but also a stadium for large scale public events such as concerts and community events such as Relay for Life."