A strategic business case for the redevelopment of the Broadmeadow sports and entertainment precinct is in its final stages but is unlikely to be considered by the NSW government before the March state election.
The precinct, considered the next key site for major economic development in greater Newcastle, was slated for an overhaul by Sports Minister Stuart Ayres more than 18 months ago.
Mr Ayres and Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter, Scot MacDonald, released a draft concept plan for the 63-hectare site in July, 2017.
It came about a year after the government said it would allocate $1.6 billion for stadia upgrade in Sydney – since increased to almost $2 billion.
When the plan was announced, the government was considering relocating Newcastle Harness Racing Club; envisioned the possible construction of a new hotel, entertainment centre and “consolidated sports facility” with an aquatic centre; and was open to exploring residential development on parts of the precinct.
While none of the ideas were funded, Mr Ayres said the plan would be “the start of the conversation” about what the future of Broadmeadow looked like.
Since then a number of changes have occurred with key stakeholders at the precinct.
The Newcastle Knights have revealed their plans to build a centre of excellence at the southern end of McDonald Jones Stadium - not at the harness track.
Newcastle Basketball has entered into an agreement with Lake Macquarie City Council to explore the possibility of moving from Broadmeadow to Hillsborough.
The Newcastle show association has declared its hope of becoming trustee of the show’s grounds and preventing residential development.
Support to rebuild Newcastle Entertainment Centre also grew after the cancellation of a national league basketball trial and incorrect sale of tickets to an international netball match.
The government is developing a business case for the extension of light rail as well, possibly to John Hunter Hospital via Broadmeadow.
The Herald asked Mr Ayres how the respective changes in and around Broadmeadow could influence the overall plan for the precinct, but Venues NSW responded, offering little in the way of assurance if the ideas in the original plan are still relevant.
“Venues NSW, working with Hunter and Central Coast Development Corporation, are preparing a Strategic Business Case for the Hunter Sports & Entertainment Precinct,” a Venues NSW spokesperson said.
“This Strategic Business Case is still in the process of being reviewed and once that is completed it will be submitted for consideration by the NSW Government.”
Venues NSW did not provide a time frame, but the Herald understands the plan is all but complete and was initially set to be submitted to cabinet in late 2018.
A redeveloped precinct would likely include a substantial mix of public and prviate developments for residential, commercial and recreational uses.
The department of planning’s Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Plan 2036 envisions Broadmeadow as a “nationally significant sport and entertainment precinct” which provides “a mix of uses that facilitates growth and change in surrounding centres and residential areas”.
The plan, released in September, proposes an extra 1500 dwellings and an additional 550 jobs in the suburb.
Newcastle lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes told a Property Council lunch in November she expected Broadmeadow to be city’s next Honeysuckle.
“The Honeysuckle project, which has been going for most of my lifetime, is almost coming to a close with the remaining lots being prepared for sale,” she said.
“At the moment, and hopefully it will be quicker than 20 years, there is a lot of work going into discussion and planning around the sports and entertainment precinct.
“The opportunities there are probably greater and more complex in how they are actually managed, because there are so many different stakeholders in that precinct to accommodate and to make sure there is the representative spending on infrastructure.
“But that really should be like a Sydney Olympic Park … it should be an entertainment precinct for all of the region.
“Every time a big travelling show goes between Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, we used to be on that stop in the Hunter and because the facilities are tired and aged, we’re not on that stop anymore.”
The Newcastle Knights were granted $10 million in state funding in December, 2017 to match $10 million put forward by Wests Group for a centre of excellence.
The club initially said construction would start in 2018 and be finished by late 2019.
But when it released designs last May for the centre to be built at the southern end of the stadium, Wests Group CEO Phil Gardner said he expected the centre to be built by early 2020.
Venues NSW did not confirm how the Knights’ plans to build at the proposed site, rather than at the harness track, had impacted the overall plan for Broadmeadow.
“Plans are yet to be finalised for the Newcastle Knights centre of excellence, Venues NSW are working with the Newcastle Knights on this important facility,” the spokesperson said.
With a state election in March, the overall plan for Broadmeadow will likely remain behind closed doors until the next term.
Should a change in government occur, it remains to be seen what will become of the plan with Labor indicating it will rein in government spending on sports infrastructure.
Redeveloping the precinct is also considered pivotal for any future extension of light rail, which the government’s extension business case will likely advocate when released in coming months.
Newcastle state MP Tim Crakanthorp said draft planning for the precinct had been completed by Labor about a decade ago.
“In 2009, under the former Labor government, a Broadmeadow Precinct Concept Masterplan was commissioned,” he said.
“A draft was then produced by the former Hunter Regional Sporting Venues Authority.
“In 2011, the Liberal government was elected. The draft was never translated into a masterplan and for four long years nothing was done.”
Mr Crakanthorp said Labor would review the concept plan if elected.
“We will assess all projects slated by the previous government including the precinct masterplan for Broadmeadow,” he said.
“We will not be blindly supporting plans for which we haven't been provided the details.”
Hunter Business Chamber CEO Bob Hawes said the chamber would be “calling on both sides of politics to commit to a funding and implementation plan” for a “staged development”.
“An integrated development that combines contemporary residential and community spaces with cafes, restaurants, commercial uses and first-class sports and entertainment facilities would create a new destination point for the city, complementing the revitalised CBD,” he said.
“It would also enhance opportunities for transport connectivity, including future expansion of the light rail.”