For Tourism Hunter chairman Will Creedon, the Newcastle 500 Supercars event was a success before a single race was run on the weekend.
“People are starting to see the significance of events,” Mr Creedon said, “and the emergence of the visitor economy. That is really, really satisfying. A lot of people in our region have been harping about what tourism can do. This is one of the events. It doesn’t matter if it is Supercars. It is how we have set ourselves up.
“A lot of people have worked hard. Some will never be known. I want to thank them. By having such a major event it allows us our next step.”
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He offers a bevy of events in Newcastle and the Hunter over the past 10 years that have proved the region has the infrastructure in place to hold a major event like Supercars. He reels off a list of acquired strengths – volunteers, police, business support and industry. And the events that preceded Supercars: Special Olympics, World Youth Games, Asian Cup and home-grown festivals like Steamfest in Maitland.
Mr Creedon’s busy mind is already focused on the next big thing.
“Our first major event just happened to be Supercars,” he said. “The thing is, it’s the first major event. That is really important. For me, it is about where do we set ourselves up for in the future.”
One creative idea floated by Creedon: why not take advantage of the massive temporary infrastructure and road closures put in place for the Supercars event, perhaps as early as next year. The concept: immediately after the Supercars host a convention around engineering technologies and other smart technologies, drawing the best from Asia and the Hunter region.
He is also an advocate for the property along Newcastle’s foreshore from Nobbys lighthouse all the way to Wickham coming under separate management.
“I believe we need an authority to program and drive that area,” he said. “I’m not talking buildings, I’m talking about activities, events, things that enrich our everyday lives. By default, it will enhance cruise activities. It will enhance the reason to live here.”
Mr Creedon envisions it as a “global playground” capable of drawing 400,000 visitors on a weekend.
Turning the old Newcastle train station into a vital tourism drawcard is essential, he said. “It’s not about the built form. You can be really clever there.”
He said the location could be “our Statue of Liberty”.
So many changes in the past five years have already contributed to Newcastle becoming a buzz city to others around the nation and world, he said.
“We don’t know how great we are, and how great we can be,” he said.