Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Alternative for Sport

There has been a lot of chatter recently about the future direction of Cairns and whether or not we should make sport our focus. The debate over the proposal by Warren Enstch regarding the stadium he would like to erect that would seat 20'000 has led me to believe that perhaps Cairns actually sees itself as having a future as a sporting destination.

There are a few problems with this train of thought. The number one issue we would have with it is fairly obviously, the weather. Every facility built would have to allow for the fact that not only do we have a quite substantial wet season, but a pretty soggy dry season too (at least this year it is certainly the case). This means a retractable roof would have to be built over every field. I have no real understanding of the costs involved but don't think that this optional extra is a cheap one. People do not mind standing about in wet weather, or donning raincoats, but it must be acknowledged that our wet weather accompanies a far whack of humidity and wearing a layer of plastic would not be very comfortable. As for using the stadium for a performance venue as Warren suggests, the rain would not allow for that either. During my lifetime, many, many concerts have been cancelled or postponed at Kuranda's Amphitheatre because of inclement weather. This would not change, just be on a bigger scale.

Cairns has many suburban sporting clubs crying out for funding of their local facilities for kids. They require upgrades on existing parks and fields, more carparks, better lighting and more toilets. Others do not yet even have a field to play on! How could we justify the spending on such a large scale for something our youth could not access in the future because they have nowhere currently to grow their skills? We need to fund these smaller clubs before building a monstrous one.

At present, Cazaly's has several national sporting events they host during the year. The codes vary and cricket is also played there. I have been to a few of these and never have I seen a full house. It comes close, sometimes it's pretty packed, but to go to a full 20'000 seat capacity would be slightly ludicrious. The Cowboys facility in Townsville is not always packed, rarely in fact, and quite a few of it's patrons are Cairns residents who enjoy their weekend getaways the pilgrimage south affords them. Upgrading the current facilities to host slighly larger crowds would be more than adequate for our needs.

Lastly, Cairns is not a place that the rest of Australia thinks of when sport is mentioned. We have never marketed ourselves as a sporting town and although the lobbying to be a training base for athletes needing to aclimatise to humidity before a major sporting event should continue, and the holding of national sporting fixtures in our region is a highlight for many, the complete package is not really there.

Cairns should focus instead on it's already active, existing sporting culture. Alternative sports. These are largely held without an audience but the basis for growth is here and the facilities are great. We have white water rafting, triathalons, bungee jumping, downhill mountainbiking, skating, BMX, wakeboarding, just to name a few. The weather for these sports is largely irrelevant. You can watch or participate in any of the water sports in a bit of rain without the event being affected. Our humidity means that these sports are perfect for tourists and large scale events. We have the start of marketing begun, these sports are advertised already in our campaigns both nationally and internationally, meaning the cost of further promotion would be more effective.

These sports could form part of the Festival Cairns program, or form another, entirely individual event program for our wet season, drawing people here during what is traditionally a quiet time for tourists. The growth in these sports is huge and getting bigger all the time, we have world class athletes in these sports right here. Tell me you did not watch, with glee, the white water rafting events in the Commonwealth Games?

These sports augment well with our vibrant, tropical surrounds and will cement us as the place to go for alternative sports, unique cultural experiences, great food, coffee and wine. Why fight to gain a foothold in an already saturated market when we could offer so much more than that and stop ourselves from becoming a city that simply blends in.

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