ONE of the men responsible for bringing both the Canberra Raiders-Brisbane Broncos NRL trial and the NSW Waratahs and Fiji Warriors match to Wade Park says a new multi-purpose sports stadium in Orange will put the city on the map.
Entrepreneur Toney Fitzgerald believes Orange has lost its “first mover advantage” with Wade Park falling behind the likes of Mudgee’s Glen Willow Complex and Dubbo’s Apex Oval in the race to host top line sports in the west.
But there’s a three-to-four-year fix that could give Orange its own signature event to rival that of both the Bathurst 1000 at Mount Panorama and the Country Music Festival at Tamworth.
And it comes in the form of a multi-million dollar stadium with the possibility to seat 4500 people while also boasting hotel accommodation, retail space, office space, university facilities and a home for the city’s sporting hall of fame.
The venue would have the potential to play host to A League, NRL and rugby union matches on a rectangular shaped field.
With a venue like this in a city the size of Orange, Fitzgerald believes NRL clubs will be willing to bring more than one game a year west of the Blue Mountains.
“You want innovative thinking backed up by entrepreneurial thinking,” he said.
“You’ve got to think ‘don’t tell me how it can’t be done, tell me how it can be done.’ It’s about creating thinking.”
Fitzgerald said bringing an NRL trial game to Wade Park in 2008 and then the NSW Waratahs in 2010 was as simple as picking up the phone and talking with the clubs.
He said he had the St George-Illawarra Dragons and the Parramatta Eels ready to go in 2011, too, until the deal fell over.
Wade Park was never a stumbling block then.
But both Glen Willow and an improved Apex Oval were non-existent either.
Fitzgerald believes the time was right for Orange to make a move in the stadiums of the future market.
“We’ve lost our first mover advantage. You snooze you lose and Orange went into la-la land there for a little while,” he said.
“I’ve grown up in Orange, I come home to Orange and when I have conversations with people they’re saying Orange doesn’t have a signature event.
“Bathurst has the (V8) races, Tamworth the country and music festival and I’ve been to the Elvis Festival in Parkes... but what is Orange’s signature event?
“Food and wine is great, but Orange needs something else.
“Whether that’s being the sporting capital ... Orange has to be known for something else.”
He said the easiest way to find funding for a project of this magnitude would be to use a contractually obligated revenue system ensuring there was enough money in the bank to pay for work before any foundation was laid.
The capabilities to be used 365 days of the year is essential.
“The challenge now is to have the equivalent, if not better, than what Mudgee has got,” he said.
“They’ve set the benchmark, so you’ve got to look at how you can make it better and weigh up everything from there. Provide something for the community to be proud of.”