Council considers options for Central Coast Stadium future
The Central Coast Council is considering options for the future of Central Coast Stadium, including ownership, naming-rights and an upgrade of its facilities.
The ‘Central Coast Stadium Final Strategy’ report was deferred at a Council meeting last week, which suggests a range of strategies for the future of the venue, which has seen declining attendance figures in recent years and annual operating losses of between $840,000 to $1.4 million.
Interim Administrator Dick Persson AM delayed the strategy for three meetings to give staff time to speed up timelines for strategies outlined in the report.
“Part of the stadium strategy is the relationship with the Mariners. It requires an anchor tenant. I have met with the anchor tenant and there are things they are looking for us to expedite to try and make their business better and make people’s experiences better.”
Central Coast Stadium opened in 2000 on the site of the old Grahame Park to serve as the new home ground of the North Sydney Bears (who merged with Manly to become the Northern Eagles). However, the partnership folded in 2002 with all remaining games relocated from Gosford to Brookvale mid-way through that season.
Despite calls for a stand-alone NRL team on the Central Coast, one never eventuated and the ‘Bears’ wording actually remained in the stadium’s seating up until just over a year ago. A-League’s Central Coast Mariners are the primary tenants, while the stadium also hosts pre-season and regular-season NRL games each year.
The report stated there was a decline in average spectators at Mariners games between 2017/18 to 2018/19 from 6795 to 5032, however council noted that while NRL attendance was strong, the Mariners brought in more visitors annually.
The report reveals a host of strategies including attracting more events as well as opening expressions of interest for naming-rights to boost revenue. The council will also look at pursuing expressions of interest for venue management rights indicating there had been “sufficient interest”. The Mariners are believed to have expressed interested in taking over management rights of the stadium in the past.
The venue celebrated its 20th anniversary last year and since opening on the site of the old Grahame Park as NorthPower Stadium in 2000, has also commercially been known as Central Coast Express Advocate Stadium and Central Coast Bluetongue Stadium. It has been known as Central Coast Stadium since 2014 when council took over the management, with the purpose of promoting the Central Coast brand.
The report states the council’s aim is for the stadium to be recognised as a ‘Tier 2’ venue, with a capacity of between 20,000 and 40,000, improved corporate facilities and the ability to be the home ground for national sporting teams. The council has also set a target of hosting 40 major events per year and is keen to work with Destination NSW to help attract events.
The report identified a number of challenges for the stadium including limited food and beverage facilities, limited size of function space and a lack of parking.
Improvements identified for the stadium include refurbished corporate spaces, commercial kitchen facilities, a larger conference facility, new food and drink options, merchandise outlet, improved stadium Wi-Fi and new signage.
Last year, the Central Coast Council revealed concept plans for a five-level carpark adjacent to the stadium plus mixed-use space to include office space as well as a commercial kitchen and rooftop venue in the development.
However, when it came before councillors it was put on ice until the completion of the Central Coast parking strategy.
Central Coast Stadium has seen some minor upgrades in recent years including improved player facilities, new seating, larger video screen and most recently, LED floodlighting.