Lismore keen to host more sport

COULD Lismore do a Coffs Harbour and become known as the training base for a national sporting team like the Wallabies?

Or maybe it could host more NRL pre-season games, or the new W-League, or perhaps events such as the Legends cricket tour could be within Lismore's reach.

That's the big-city dreams of Lismore City Council, but instead of employing the Field of Dreams philosophy of 'build it and they will come', they have employed a sports-savvy marketing company to help them stitch up some deals.

Complete Sports Marketing (CSC), headed up by former IMG director Rick Sleeman, has just delivered the council a sports audit of the city and its capacity to host certain sporting events.

Cricket, rugby league, rugby union, Oztag, baseball and even triathlon have all been mentioned as strong possibilities, and Sleeman is out there pitching Lismore as a potential host venue right now.

“We are taking Lismore, among other local government areas, to sporting associations within NSW and to national associations to see what events can transpire,” Sleeman said.

“But until such time as the event is actually ready for a formal announcement, in a formal process, with the right parties involved in it, then it is not wise to drip-feed too much information into the marketplace.

“That's why I am not prepared to elaborate too much other than to say Oztag, cricket and baseball.”

Sleeman was the man who put Coffs Harbour on the map in terms of becoming the Wallabies training camp and has high hopes of turning Lismore into a similar regional sporting 'super centre'.

He has 31 other local councils or similar clients on his books.

“In terms of infrastructure, in terms of sporting associations, in terms of virtually all the criteria they (Lismore) stack up well,” Sleeman said.

“In this region, baseball stacks up, rugby league, rugby union stack up well and cricket stacks up well and as a consequence of that the facilities are here for that.

“And there are some local natural attributes that don't necessarily get picked up in a council asset register and we are referring to triathlon there.”

With an NRL pre-season game involving the Gold Coast Titans and Wests Tigers already set down for Oakes Oval next February and the Masters Games also scheduled for next year the sporting calendar is already looking pretty good for Lismore in 2009.

In 2007, the Masters Games pumped $835,000 into the local economy and the NSW Aboriginal rugby league knockout delivered a windfall of $1.1 million.

But according to Lismore City Council's events coordinator John Bancroft the city 'could handle more'.

“We've had the sports audit for two or three weeks now and we are using the information contained within it to work with Complete Sports Marketing to target some of the sports Rick has mentioned,” Bancroft said.

“We have manufactured some of our own events and we have bid for some ourselves, but we can handle more, and we want more, and we are looking to Complete Sports Marketing to help identify more sporting events, bid for them, and win them.”

Bidding for such large sporting events could come at a cost, with figures of up $30,000 mentioned as the sum needed to secure the 'hosting rights'.

Under CSC's marketing proposal these hosting rights could be offset by on-selling rights to businesses to become known as the 'official' hotel, or club, or restaurant for that particular event.

This money would then be fed back to a council sports fund to help bid for future events.

“But I suggest that our first one wouldn't be $30,000,” Bancroft said.

“It might be $5000, something that we could handle within existing budgets.”

And with sports tourists spending on average $144 per day compared with general tourists at $112 per day, there is a strong financial imperative behind council's initiative.

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