The North Queensland Cowboys says their future in the NRL is under serious threat unless a new stadium is built in the Townsville CBD.
Chairman Laurence Lancini has ramped up the pressure on the federal government to match the $100 million in funding for the proposed facility already committed by the Queensland government.
Labor, if elected, will contribute the same, with the estimated cost for the new facility around $250 million.
Lancini backed down from a threat that the club may have to move cities if the new stadium isn’t built, but stressed their current home, 1300SMILES Stadium, is at the end of its economic life.
“The likelihood of the Cowboys surviving long-term unless we get a new facility would be very difficult,” Lancini told reporters in Brisbane on Thursday.
“The Cowboys is the biggest brand in regional Queensland and there’s no doubt the threat of compromising their team and club will be a significant issue for this election.”
1300SMILES Stadium, also known as the Willows Sports Complex, is a converted greyhound track that was transformed into a rugby league ground when the Cowboys entered the ARL competition in 1995.
It is an approximate half-hour drive from the Townsville CBD, has poor service by public transport, and is becoming increasingly dilapidated in comparison to the more modern venues around the country.
“The way it’s built, the designs within the public laws, it’s outgrown that,” chief executive Greg Tonner said.
“There needs to be a complete overhaul to stay, and why would be spend money there when it doesn’t come to the advice and experience around Australia, to build a stadium close to infrastructure in the city?”
Lancini said the Cowboys were working with the NRL to determine whether the league could tip in any funding.
The NRL has already committed to providing the new stadium with content, such as Test matches, if it is built.
“We don’t want to turn this into a political hot potato. We just need to have all levels of government and all political parties aligned on what North Queensland needs,” Lancini said.