Cost of Hobart stadium likely to be higher than $750m, documents show

The $750 million price tag attached to Hobart’s proposed new stadium was a “ballpark” figure provided by a consultant a week before the announcement — with a minister admitting “we had to be able to explain what it could cost, now we need to find out what it will cost”.

Advice on the cost of constructing the on-water stadium in Hobart was described as “very high level” by the agency that provided it, less than a week before the “game-changing” project was announced by former premier Peter Gutwein.

Right to information documents obtained by the Labor Opposition reveal the first time the cost of a southern stadium project was discussed by Tasmania’s State Growth Department was February 22 this year — the day after former Hawthorn coach Alistair Clarkson appeared in the Hobart Mercury newspaper calling for a brand new stadium to be built in the capital.

Mr Gutwein announced the stadium project in his State of the State address the following week, on March 1, saying it would cost “in the order of $750 million”.

Estimate made public despite ‘not yet having a design’

Documents show the first time costs were discussed was February 22, when an internal government email — whose sender has been redacted — asked for feedback on a draft of “our” State of the State speech, saying in regards to the stadium that: “I think we will need to say when we think it will start and finish and I have said $750 million!”

The following day, Wednesday February 23, sports development agency Waypoint group provided some “very high level” advice on how much a stadium could cost, noting “there is no design no site information and no defined scope at this stage”.

The email reads:

“Using the above very high level guidance (I say that because there is no design, no site information and no defined scope at this stage) you could come up with the following cost …

  • 25,000 seats @ $13,000 = $325,000,000
  • Add roof at say $250,000,000
  • Total = $575,000,000
  • Add escalation for say 2 years @ 5% / yr = $57,500,000
  • Add Tas market loading at 20% = $115,000,000
  • Total = $747,500,000
  • Add site specific costs = $?????

“I reiterate this is ballpark cost advice! I hope this helps.”

The email from Waypoint Group was sent at about 8:00pm on Wednesday night.

A subsequent email to the head of State Growth, Kim Evans, from an unknown sender, sat at 9:23pm, said “in relation to a southern stadium it appears conceivable that it could be delivered for a cost that is in the vicinity of $750 million, noting of course the significant factors of not yet having a design”.

Mr Evans then sent an email to an unknown recipient 25 minutes later, saying, “based on this reckon (redacted) words in the speech look fine.”

The documents show Mr Evans had been liaising with the Premier’s office on the State of the State speech.

There had also been no detailed investigation of the site conditions.

An aerial map showing streets and a blue circle highlighting an area
Royal Hobart Regatta Association said it was willing to work with the government to see the vision realised.(Supplied: Nearmaps)

‘Thought bubbles turned into a massive distraction’

Opposition spokesman Dean Winter said Tasmania could not afford to build a floating stadium during a cost of living crisis.

He said the project looked extremely difficult to engineer, and incredibly expensive.

“What we don’t want to see is thought bubbles turned into a massive distraction, and that’s what this floating stadium in Hobart actually is,” Mr Winter said.

“It’s not a real proposal.”

An aerial graphic view of a stadium on the waters edge, city behind and sky
An aerial graphic of the proposed stadium. (Supplied:Philp Lighton Architects)

Government minister Roger Jaensch hinted that the controversial project may not move forward.

Mr Jaensch said last week’s state budget included $1.25 million for a feasibility study into the project “so we can put some more meat on the bones, and get some more detail about what that project might cost, how it might run, and who might contribute to it”.

“It’s a vision, and a reasonable estimate at the time,” he said.

“We had to be able to explain to Tasmanians what it could cost, now we need to go and do the work to find out what it will cost if we proceed.”

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