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Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Should a Tasmanian AFL team be based in Hobart or Launceston?

Should a Tasmanian AFL team be based in Hobart or Launceston? 

  • If Tasmania was granted an AFL licence, the state's north and south could be battling it out to house the team
  • In Hobart's corner is its international reputation for tourism, but finding a home ground could be tricky
  • If a team were based in Launceston stakeholders say it could have a huge impact on the town, the way the Cats have for Geelong

Let's assume all the funding, sponsorship and associated boxes are ticked and Tasmania is granted the 19th AFL licence.
Should the capital Hobart become the club's home or the northern regional centre of Launceston?
And what impact would the potential $50 million-business have on the city it moved into?

The case for Hobart

Tasmania's capital is the first port of call when discussing a prospective home city for the new club.
"You'd probably have, with the players, over 100 in the football department and over 100 in administration," AFL Tasmania CEO Trish Squires said.
"So that would be a medium-sized business here in Hobart."
A club would bring with it 44 footballers from around Australia, earning an average yearly salary of $350,000 each.
But the first snag for a Hobart-based team would be its home base.
Bellerive Oval — originally a cricket ground before being developed into an AFL stadium — outgrowing its suburban confines.
Already residents are uneasy with the activity four AFL matches and a handful of Big Bash League games bring.
"I get a lot of people living in Bellerive who are actually against dropping 40 men into that area, even though it would do a lot for businesses," Squires said.
Recently, the State Government poured cold water on the idea of an inner-city stadium at Macquarie Point.
That, coupled with Bellerive's limitations, could result in another part of the city being unlocked.

Could it be based further afield?

Like the Fremantle Dockers did at Cockburn, 25 minutes away from Perth Stadium in Western Australia, Tasmania could also establish a suburban base away from its match-day venue.
Economist Ellen Witte from SGS Planning and Economics believes the answer could lie in Hobart's northern suburbs.
She said basing the team at a redeveloped KGV Oval in Glenorchy could see Hobart's rail corridor revived.
"A stadium and a team could act as a catalyst to get that demand on new public transport, and that could be a great opportunity for the city," Ms Witte said.
"It could also address congestion that we are seeing in Hobart at the moment, and we could see urban development at key stops around that transit corridor, and that would address some of the housing issues we currently see."
Coupled with a potential $250 million development slated for the nearby Wilkinson's Point and Derwent Entertainment Centre, an AFL club moving in across the road could result in unprecedented activity for the area.
Irene Duckett from urban planning firm Irene Inc said the ripple of an AFL team's arrival would be felt through every sector, including housing and accommodation, but not necessarily in a good way.
"We are already experiencing the impacts of peak tourist flows with other key events such as Dark Mofo and the Taste [festival]," she said.
"The flow-on from tourism accommodation has implications with AirBnB displacing residential tenancies, and flow-on with demand-driven pricing."
Ms Duckett said with a further spike in visitors expected, airline services would need to be looked at.
"Our vulnerability with the airlines servicing Tasmania is a big issue, with Virgin recently talking about downgrading services."
"Price surging is already evident in ticket prices during key events."

So what about Launceston?

While Hobart outranks Launceston in terms of size and population, there are calls from some quarters for a prospective team to be based in the northern city.
Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Michael Bailey believes an AFL club in the north would breathe economic life not only into Launceston, but into the coastal cities of Burnie, Devonport and Smithton.
He believes the model pioneered by the Geelong Cats holds merit for a city of Launceston's size.
"Where we really need the focus is in the north," Mr Bailey said.
"We saw in the really dark years in Geelong after the Pyramid Building Society collapse that their local football team was so important in not only keeping that local pride in place, but in growing that local economy again."
The Pyramid Building Society collapsed in 1990 with debts of more than $2 billion. Geelong, where it was based, was hit the hardest by its closure.
Like Geelong has with Deakin University, Mr Bailey believes a Launceston-based team could forge a partnership with the University of Tasmania (UTAS).
It could line up perfectly with the university's move to the Inveresk Railyards precinct, which is located next door to the York Park stadium.
"We have the ability now with the university move to really create some great facilities," Mr Bailey said.
"You could really create some clever models for young researchers to work in closely with a national level sporting team, and I look forward to seeing how that would play our for the university too which I suspect see it build its numbers in undergraduates and researchers."
"The actual machine of these teams are incredible, and plonking a $30 million or so business into the middle of Launceston would be significant for local businesses," Mr Bailey said.

So where should a team call home?

Both Hobart and Launceston have their pros and cons.
Hobart has a higher centralised population, a larger international airport, as well as a broader selection of schools and services for the families of players and staff.
Institutions like the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) have launched Hobart onto the global stage and elevated the city's cosmopolitan status.
But a team in Launceston could appeal to players and administrators seeking life outside the "bubble".
Its geographical position has advantages, with shorter flights to Melbourne and easier access for footy fans from the north-west coast who are traditionally happy to make the trip by car.
A Kardinia Park-style setup at York Park, linked with UTAS also has appeal.
David Shilbury, a professor of Sport Management at Deakin University in Melbourne, said that aside from the dollars-and-cents arguments, it's the intangibles that have the most impact in smaller cities and towns.
"The greatest impact typically from football clubs in communities like this is the sense of identities and pride, and the way it brings communities together," he said.
The impact of an AFL club moving into Launceston would be felt throughout the entire north of the state.