12,000 NRL fans deliver for Sunshine Coast
A MATCH more than two years in the making drew a record crowd of almost 12,000 to the Sunshine Coast Stadium, Kawana as the South Sydney Rabbitohs claimed a 28-24 victory over the New Zealand Warriors.
Sunshine Coast Stadium manager Simon Ball said more than 40 per cent of fans had travelled from outside the region for the historic NRL match, including from the respective teams' home soil.
Mr Ball said the event sold out before gates opened, and the 11,912-strong crowd eclipsed the previous record attendance of 10,680.
Though the underdog Warriors were disappointed with the result, fans got their moneys-worth with a hard-fought match.
But Mr Ball said the event was more than a showcase of the Coast's capabilities to host national events, and the swathes of visitors delivered "exceptional" economic benefits to the wider region's hotels and food industries, plus the stadium's security providers and gate staff.
Visit Sunshine Coast CEO Simon Latchford shared his sentiment and said hotels and restaurants reported a bumper start to the Easter holiday season.
"Sunshine Coast's major events team will be really heartened by this result and I am sure that its success will lead to many more opportunities coming our way, especially when the new runway opens and we can attract year-round flights from New Zealand," Mr Latchford said.
"Given that the Sunshine Coast is the favourite home-away-from-home for so many Kiwis, once we can attract more regular flights out of New Zealand, it would be great to see the Warriors making the Sunshine Coast a regular away-venue during the season."
Should the Sunshine Coast host more major events like the Rabbitohs vs Warriors game?
This poll ended on 15 May 2019.
Definitely. They get a huge turnout and are amazing for the region.
No. They're too busy and we don't have the facilities for them.
It doesn't bother me.
This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.
Falcons chairman Ashley Robinson commended the Rabbitohs for their support and said their arrival marked a "massive moment" for Sunshine Coast football, and Rugby League in general.
Mr Robinson is a lifelong local and patron of the sport, but said nothing had ever compared to Saturday's buzz, atmosphere, the strong crowd support and the showcase of talent.
"I was born here, and I think it's the best thing I have been to on the Sunshine Coast," he said. "The crowd loved it."
Mr Robinson was "overjoyed" at the Falcons state league victory over the Easts Tigers before their largest-ever home crowd of about 8000 by full time.
"I think the Sunshine Coast always deserved this and they proved this (Saturday) night," Mr Robinson said.
Mr Ball said he and the team were in early negotiations to secure more partnerships in league, rugby union and soccer, and exploring opportunities for more international sport and significant music events.
Mr Ball first met with the Rabbitohs' chief executive and their commercial officer about two-and-a-half years ago to begin conversations about what a partnership would look like.
Mr Ball thanked the team and the 62 volunteers who offered their time and skills.
Mr Ball said to put things in perspective, the on-site manager had walked 27km throughout the event, almost double his average 10-15km.