THE billions of dollars about to be poured into promoting regional NSW is another vindication of the aggressive program of sporting fields upgrades undertaken by Bathurst Regional Council in recent years.
The state government announced on Tuesday its plan to funnel $25 billion in tourism expenditure outside of the metropolitan area by 2030.
Part of the plan would involve promoting regional NSW areas such as Broken Hill and the Riverina as tourism destinations for overseas visitors, while another plank of the policy would see the government focus real attention on having top-level sporting fixtures played in the bush.
Of course, Bathurst is already leading the way in that area with its long-term deal with Penrith Panthers to play an NRL match each year at Carrington Oval.
That deal – which will run until 2028, at least – is already reaping benefits through a closer relationship between Panthers and the city, increased TV coverage of Bathurst and a boost in overnight stays whenever the Panthers play here.
At the same time, council has used the deal as justification for a massive and ongoing upgrade of Carrington Park.
At the moment, council pays around $300,000 a year to bring an NRL match here but the government’s plan is to expand on what Bathurst has in place, bringing in more towns and more sports.
Crucially, there will also be government money attached to make it happen and Bathurst Regional Council, having shouldered the financial burden for the Panthers deal, surely deserves favourable consideration when that cash is spread around.
Council is currently upgrading the Proctor Park complex so A-League soccer clashes should be a real possibility; Ann Ashwood Park gives the city a chance to pitch for rugby matches; and the government money might finally be the incentive we’ve needed to complete an upgrade of Bathurst Sportsground to potentially host Big Bash or Sheffield Shield cricket matches.
So what else? A master plan to upgrade the George Park complex has been lodged with council so maybe netball should be the next sport in line for some council support.
There are regular court upgrades at the netball complex but a new and modern indoor facility would be needed for us to ever hope to host a Super Netball clash. Build it and they will come – hopefully with the financial backing of the state government.