THE Berejiklian government has flagged a major overhaul of the Broadmeadow sport and entertainment precinct, unveiling plans to open up the site for private development and redevelop the city’s outdated entertainment centre.
On Wednesday Sports Minister Stuart Ayres released the long-awaited draft concept plan for the 63-hectare site at Broadmeadow.
While it includes no funding commitments, the government has confirmed it plans to relocate the Newcastle harness racing track – tipped to make way for a $20 million rugby league centre of excellence – as well as opening the door for the construction of a new hotel, entertainment centre and “consolidated sports facility” that could include a new aquatic centre or multi-level car park on the site.
The document, which Mr Ayres said would kick-start a three-month community consultation period, comes amid speculation that the state government has agreed to help jointly fund a $20 million rugby league centre of excellence at the site of the Newcastle International Paceway.
Mr Ayres wouldn’t confirm that on Wednesday, but said the proposal was “being considered by the government as we speak”.
The new concept plan lays out a number of potential development options which Mr Ayres said were “the start of the conversation” about the precinct’s future.
“We’ve got a canvas that has part of the painting on it but it’s by no means finished,” he said.
Part of that painting is a clear invitation for private developers to be involved in the redevelopment of the site, which is made up of state-owned land.
The 15-page plan includes a section on “commercial opportunities”, and suggests the possibility of a “small commercial development” on the corner of Lamton and Bavin Roads, “medium-rise residential” development on land at the edge of the precinct and “a tourist and business hotel” likely on the corner of Griffiths and Turton Road.
Mr Ayres also hinted that any redevelopment of the entertainment centre could be led by the private sector, and said developers needed “clear rules of play” about where they could invest.
“We don’t want to preempt or force one hand on top of the other, we don’t want to say that this has to be public and this has to be private, so it’s very important we have a transparent conversation now and work through a fairly diligent budget process,” he said.
None of the possible developments in the concept plan are costed, because, Mr Ayres said, it would “preempt” the views of the community.
He said developing an over-arching plan for what the community wanted would allow the government to “establish a business case for each public sector investment required [and] secondly it allows us to talk to people who might want to bring private sector development into the site”.
He also said the government wanted to hear the community’s view on the possibility of residential development on parts of the site.
“If residential [development] is part of that solution that the public and council is keen to pursue then that’s what we want to hear,” he said.
Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp said he was pleased the government had released a “co-ordinated plan”.
“With [the] government spending billions on stadiums in Sydney, it is critical that Newcastle does not miss out,” he said.
Less clear is what the government intends to do with the Newcastle Showgrounds.
The concept plan states that the Showgrounds are “underutilised”, and says the Show could be incorporated into the redeveloped precinct “just as Sydney Olympic Park was designed to be transformed into the destination of the Royal Easter Show every year”.
It states that the Newcastle Farmers Market could also be relocated “around the proposed event plaza just north of McDonald Jones Stadium.
The government has identified Broadmeadow as one of the region’s “strategic centres”, and Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald said the plan would “transform the area into a vibrant sporting and entertainment hub for Newcastle”
“These upgrades will also expand Newcastle’s growing events market, helping to boost national and international visitor numbers, creating new jobs and economic opportunities in the process,” he said.