Townsville’s new Queensland Country Bank Stadium hosted its first sports event on Friday, with 22,459 fans in attendance to watch the Cowboys v Broncos.
While the new North Queensland Stadium officially opened with an Elton John concert on February 29, Friday was the first home game for anchor-tenant North Queensland Cowboys.
The impressive stadium, which replaces the old 1300SMILES Stadium, opened last month after two and a half years of construction and cost $293 to build, backed by Federal and Queensland Government funds.
The Brisbane Broncos spoiled the party on the field at least, running out winners 28-22, and the attendance was 90% of the stadium’s 25,000-capacity, no doubt due to the current circumstance which caused below-average crowds across all events on the weekend.
However, with the ongoing outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic, it’ll be the last game at the new stadium with fans in attendance, with all future events to be played behind closed doors for the foreseeable future.
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The inner-city stadium is hoped to revitalise the Townsville CBD and on Friday, attracted an influx of people to the city, with huge crowds at many pubs and clubs, including the Cowboys Leagues Club. Many vendors celebrated one of their biggest days of trade thanks to flocks of interstate football fans.
COVID-19 is a body blow for local businesses who’ve been holding out for the opening of the stadium, but the crowds will return at some point in the future and reinvigorate the economy of Townsville’s CBD.
Tickets to the first Cowboys match sold out in record time while hotels around the city were fully booked on game night.
Hospitality options at the stadium are located in the western grandstand and include the Chairman’s Club, a Sky Deck, Club lounge, 88 external boxes, 17 suites and function rooms. Find out more about the stadium’s features.
Commenting on the new venue, Cowboys’ great Johnathan Thurston stated, “every time I see it, it gives me goosebumps - it's a world-class stadium.”
Thurston was among many locals who lobbied for the new venue, using his victory speech at the 2015 NRL Grand Final to lobby for funding.
The former Cowboys star, who has been immortalised in a life-size bronze statue outside the venue, added “not only does it attract the Cowboys home games, but hopefully we can attract world-class events here to the stadium - that's what it was built for."
It wasn’t all smooth sailing however, but often stadium openings never are. The stadium was evacuated earlier in the day at 1:40pm after fire alarms were set off. A burst pipe was said to trigger the alarm and three crews were on the scene as people were already starting to gather outside ahead of the first game. There were some reports of long queues at the opening game, but all in all, the feedback was positive, and it looked a treat on TV.
As well as North Queensland Cowboys home games, the new stadium is also scheduled to host a football match between Brisbane Roar and Crystal Palace, and a Rugby Union clash between the Wallabies and Fiji, while the boxing match-up between Jeff Horn and Tim Tzsyu has been postponed. View the upcoming events calendar here.