$37M plan to put Mackay on the national sporting map
WHEN the Gold Coast Suns step out onto the field to take on the Western Bulldogs in the AFL pre-season JLT Community Series tomorrow, a new era in Mackay sport will be born.
The premier sporting event, one of two occurring in the region this weekend, is another shot in the arm for Harrup Park Country Club and a huge step closer to realising the club's $37 million Great Barrier Reef Arena expansion goal.
Once constructed, the Great Barrier Reef Arena will be of tier 1 national standard and capable of hosting and broadcasting top level sporting events such as in-season AFL games.
With 3000 to 5000 people expected to attend, this weekend's event will provide HPCC with the perfect platform to showcase what the facility has to offer.
Gold Coast Suns chief Mark Evans was impressed with the venue so far and said it was well on the way to ticking all the right boxes in terms of hosting home and away season AFL matches.
"The playing surface is fantastic and people keep telling me the lights are almost the best in the country so that is a great start and hopefully we can help the region deliver some extra funding and do some more upgrades," Mr Evans said.
"For the AFL, it is always facility led. They have a document listing a whole range of standards for an AFL home and away season match.
"That ends up being how do you service the broadcaster and how do you service the teams and technological requirements during a game?
"If you have really good lights and a really good playing surface it is a great start so the rest is just infrastructure."
Together with tonight's Melbourne Storm versus North Queensland Cowboys NRL encounter, both games will help promote Mackay as a destination for elite sport.
HPCC chief Matt Cielens said the opportunity to host the JLT Community Series match would help promote the club's plan going forward and put Mackay on the map.
"We get told a lot that we do have good facilities and the opportunity to host this demonstrates that we are providing the right facilities and doing the right things by way of how we are hosting these events," he said.
"There are great opportunities out there at the moment especially with the emergence of women's sport and that is demonstrated in Mackay with the WBBL and the success seen there.
"A big part of our plan going forward is around the Great Barrier Reef Arena project and the attraction of that Stage1A part of the development.
"We have $10 million committed through the regional growth fund and at the moment we are working on the additional $10M through funding opportunities and Harrup Park board under-riding the difference."
Mr Cielens said the Great Barrier Reef Arena expansion project would not only allow Mackay to host top-tier sporting events but also boost the economy.
"A big thing ... bringing awareness to the region. It is not just about us wanting to develop our facilities to attract this sport; it is attracting these opportunities to promote the region, benefit business, benefit the economy and continue to put the region on the map nationally," he said.