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Hobart’s planned new stadium: a sad case of pleasing policy elites rather than public opinion

By Chris Lewis - posted Tuesday, 2 May 2023

Do political elites really know what is best for a city by committing vast sums of taxpayer funds into a project at a time when the majority of Tasmanians do not want a new stadium despite their desire for a Tasmanian AFL team?

When the PM was asked at a press conference on April 29 why the stadium was going ahead in the face of public opposition, he noted the prowess of political leaders knowing what was best for the national interest.

How arrogant, and how unconvincing at a time when many Tasmanians and Australians are struggling to meet their everyday higher cost of living needs.


Did Tasmania need a shiny $715 million new stadium to get the expected crowds that would accompany it becoming the AFL's 19th side, now enabled by the Tasmanian government committing $375 million and the Commonwealth government $240 million?

Rather than take sides about how such public money should be spent, with one recent suggestion that the same proposed Hobart site could feature 1,000 homes, a swimming basin, and a relocated state library at a cost of around $400 million, let us look at the facts in football fan terms to decide whether a new stadium is warranted.

Hobart is not building a stadium (27,000 capacity) that is light years ahead of the existing expected standard needed to host a weekly football match and attract fans.

After all, North Melbourne and Hawthorn have been playing AFL home matches in the existing Hobart and Launceston stadiums for a number of years with reasonable crowds turning up to such decent stadiums which already have capacities of 19,500 and 19,000.

Such grounds could easily make the necessary adjustments to achieve a higher 27,000 capacity in line with growing demand given the strong likelihood that many more Tasmanians will support a local team rather than North Melbourne and Hawthorn.

For myself, and I suspect many Tasmanians, it also makes sense for the two existing stadiums to keep sharing AFL games, in much the same way that Sydney has two NRL teams that play home games in different regions to accommodate their fan base (West Tigers and St George Illawarra).


As it stands, the Tasmanian premier has stated that Launceston's existing AFL use stadium will still host four AFL matches once the new Hobart stadium is built, although he also acknowledges that AFL's co-operation with the fixtures will be required.

What has been good enough for Sydney with its 5 million population, also appears logical for Tasmania with a relatively paltry population of just 570,000 with Hobart and Launceston having around 250,000 and 100,000 respectively.

The AFL demands a new stadium, yet allows the Western Bulldogs to play a few matches at a pretty ordinary Ballarat stadium (11,000 capacity) when compared to Tasmania's existing football stadiums in Hobart and Launceston.

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About the Author

Chris Lewis, who completed a First Class Honours degree and PhD (Commonwealth scholarship) at Monash University, has an interest in all economic, social and environmental issues, but believes that the struggle for the ‘right’ policy mix remains an elusive goal in such a complex and competitive world.

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All articles by Chris Lewis

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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