Eight months after demanding a new Townsville stadium, North Queensland co-captain Johnathan Thurston’s dream is closer to being realised after a major funding boost for the $250 million project.
Alongside Thurston in Townsville on Friday, Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt announced the state government would raise their contribution towards a new CBD stadium from $100 million to $140 million.
And NRL CEO Todd Greenberg pledged another $10 million on Friday.
The boost ensured the project would be built under a federal Labor government given Opposition Leader Bill Shorten had already pledged $100 million, putting pressure on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to do the same.
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg hoped Townsville got the stadium they “deserve”.
“The state and federal governments made it clear that they wanted a commitment from the game before they would further invest in the stadium – and we have given that commitment,” Greenberg said.
“The Cowboys are the reigning premiers and they deserve a world class stadium.
“This project will bring benefits across northern Queensland with up to 1650 new jobs created.”
Thurston first raised the issue when he used his acceptance speech after the Cowboys won their maiden NRL premiership last October to tell the Prime Minister that “North Queensland deserves a new stadium”.
Cowboys chairman Laurence Lancini upped the ante in May when he claimed the NRL club’s future would be under serious threat unless a new stadium was built in the Townsville CBD.
Lancini backed down from a threat that the club may have to move cities if the new stadium wasn’t built but stressed their current home, 1300SMILES Stadium, was at the end of its economic life.
Their home ground, 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 then 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.
Greenberg said the NRL and the Cowboys would keep working with all levels of government to secure the funds to proceed with the stadium.
“Not only will our fans benefit from a better experience in a new stadium but there will be a real boost for the local economy,” Greenberg said.