The Main Event

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Osheaga_Festival_Crowd_Montreal_2010-07-31
By Strategic Partner Tom O’Meara

The value of major events is so often misunderstood that it creates such a divisive argument which sullies the truly great contribution to community and the state’s economy.

Some of our major events attract government funding. Many don’t and for very good reasons i.e they are financially successful in their own right, or fortunate enough to have secured commercial sponsors.

And in the true mix of successful tourism events, the state needs the blockbuster events such as AFL games, Symmons Plains V8 round, Dark MoFo and Taste of Tasmania, just as much as they need the niche events supported strongly by their followers.

The impact of the Hawthorn AFL games in Launceston has been a game changer for the city. The four games attract more than 53,000 visitors from intrastate and around the nation during a testing winter when up to 3000 Tasmanians migrate to warmer climates.

Hobart also now shares the booty with North Melbourne playing three games at Blundstone Arena.

I’m delighted to see UTAS takeover the naming rights of York Park, or Aurora Stadium as it has been for many years. The UTAS Stadium is integral to the Inveresk precinct which is now on track for the development of a $350m UTAS campus transfer from its current Newnham site.

As for the Government funding Hawthorn to play AFL roster games UTAS stadium, we may soon have a new P&L which will provide data outlining the huge return for the government’s investment. I declare a conflict of interest and will be disappointed if the audit returns anything but highly successful.

Simply labelled “Event Funding,” the project is in the hands of the Tasmanian Audit Office and along with one or two other audits, will be released by the end of the year.  However it may be sooner, knowing the Audit Office likes to release reports while Parliament is sitting and next week is the last sitting week.

Nationally, last week was the jewel in the crown of sporting events with the week long, Melbourne Cup Carnival at Flemington. It’s right to say the Melbourne Cup is the race that stops the nation but look behind the scenes for the massive economic injection to the city and the state.

Using figures from the past couple of years, the Carnival contributes around $374m of gross economic benefit to the State and employs 18,000 staff and contractors at Flemington leading up and during the event. The crowd number for this year was 318,854.

Visitors were responsible for 186,000 bed nights spending more than $28m with 9,000 from interstate and overseas and additional 8000 from cruise ships. It’s no surprise than more than 75,000 hats were sold along with 61,000 dresses, 59,000 pairs of shoes, 30,000 handbags, 17,000 shirts and 15,000 suits.

It is clear the significant economic value of major events goes well beyond ticket sales and the overwhelmingly positive effect on local communities is something that cannot be understated.

Tom O’Meara was GM of the Canberra Times and the Ballarat Courier and CEO of The Examiner, Launceston.

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