First-class cricket and AFL have arrived in Townsville as the newly developed Tony Ireland Stadium opened its doors on Saturday.
The $16.5-million stadium is set to bring a host of premier events to the North, with a Twenty20 clash between Queensland and Victoria and an AFL State of Origin game between Queensland and Western Australia already confirmed.
A host of big names in the AFL were on hand at the launch, including former playing greats Robert Dipierdomenico and Brisbane legend Richard Champion.
Champion played for the Brisbane Bears for 10 years and said the stadium was a coup for the North. He said he was amazed at the quality of the field and facilities.
"I'm blown away, it's one of the best new facilities I've seen in a long time – so it's going to be huge thing for this region," he said.
"You only have to look around to see the public excitement about it.
"It has a really nice feeling about it ... it's a credit to the Government, the council and everyone involved."
The stadium comes highly regarded by the AFL as it continues its push to develop the game in Queensland.
AFL pre-season games are already played at Cazaly's Stadium in Cairns and the Brisbane Lions have confirmed they will use Tony Ireland Stadium for a training camp next season, with pre-season games likely to come in 2009.
And with the Thuringowa Bulldogs set to play in the stadium, Champion said the benefits to local sport would be significant.
"You'll see first-class events, so it's incredible for the region," he said.
"We need to grow (AFL) here, and this is another step forward. I can see AFL really kicking on here."
The stadium's facilities include five meeting rooms, a function room with seating space for 180 people and an outdoor function area that can accommodate 120.
An AFL development office as well as in-house medical rooms and drug testing facilities have also been built into the grandstand.
The stadium has a seating capacity of 10,000, including 1013 grandstand seats.
Hill seating is still available for the New Year's Eve Twenty20 cricket match.