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  • Lloyd Rothwell

Tasmania to get New Stadium and AFL Team...maybe


Tasmania to get New Stadium and AFL Team...maybe

Earlier this month, outgoing league CEO, Gill McLachlan, confirmed that Tasmania would be granted the 19th AFL license. The decision was contingent upon the federal government agreeing to kick in the last $240m required to build a new 23,000-seat multi-purpose, enclosed stadium at Macquarie Point on Hobart’s waterfront. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese duly announced that the feds would come to the party and stump up the required amount.

The total cost of the stadium is projected to be $715m. The new team, likely to be called the Tasmania Devils, is slated to join the league for the 2028 season, although the stadium may not be completed until 2029. In the interim, Blundstone Arena would be the most likely base for the club. Given the geography of Tasmania, upgrades to University of Tasmania Stadium in Launceston will ensure home games are also played in the north of the state – even after the new venue in Hobart is opened.

Australian rules football in Tasmania dates back to the 1860s. As the VFL began to expand into a national competition through the 1990s, the state was naturally a potential market for the league. Several AFL clubs, including North Melbourne, Hawthorn, and St Kilda, have taken home games to the “Apple Isle”, underwritten by the Tasmanian state government over the ensuing decades.

While the AFL sought out non-traditional markets for expansion, momentum has gradually coalesced behind the island state finally being granted its team. However, government support, including for a new stadium, was set as a pre-requisites by the league.

The additional federal government support was seemingly the last piece of the puzzle to fall into place. However, a political storm over the use of state government funds for the proposed stadium threatens to derail the project – and possibly the hope of Tassie’s AFL dream.

A groundswell of public support against the stadium has seen two MPs resign from the ruling Liberals, which has plunged the party into a minority government. The state budget is due to be handed down this coming week, which is likely to include funding for the stadium. The parliament will also need to vote in support of designating the project to be one of state significance to kick-start the approval process.

Publicly, Gill McLachlan remains confident that the binding agreement between the AFL and Tasmanian government would hold. Nevertheless, there appears to be real doubt as to whether the deal will move forward after all.

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