The Newcastle Supercars circuit is a bad idea

NSW Premier Mike Baird and Virgin Australia Supercars Championship (VASC) CEO James Warburton today confirmed that Newcastle would be hosting the final race of the domestic touring car season for at least five years starting in 2017.

Messers Baird and Warburton also confirmed that they intend the race to be run on a street circuit situated at the eastern end of the Newcastle CBD(ish) area – east of Watt Street, and long the Wharf Road frontage of Foreshore Park.

Predictably, all involved are excited at the prospect.

“It’s a cool spot,” offered series regular Mark (Helmet) Winterbottom.

“It’s a picturesque course,” said Premiere Baird.

“The Coates Hire Newcastle 500 will be a spectacular event,” was the claim from Warburton.

It’s all lovely and wonderful. Of course it is.

The event is also going to “inject” $57 million of “economic injection” for Newcastle over the five years of the deal. Because of course it will. It is long documented that the economic benefits of major sport events is true and real and not at all a completely made up number.

And the even will also attract 81,000 people “from around NSW” for the event. Presumably, they won’t be stamping passports to allow safe passage through Stockton for those arriving by plane. We were not told if the 81,000 was per year or over five years.

The big part of the story, however, was the revealing of the proposed circuit layout for the race.

At official announcement this morning, it was revealed the proposed Newcastle 500 layout will be a variation on one of the layouts mooted earlier in the year.

The proposed VASC street circuit in Newcastle

This particular proposed layout was not good – I detailed exactly why here – and yet somehow VASC, the NSW Government and Newcastle City Council have managed to take it and mangle it into something even worse.

There are two new areas of concern with the new layout.

First, the track is going to bisect Pacific Park. That will mean digging up a significant chunk of the parkland there and replacing it with a road wide enough for the Supercars to race on.

Now, Pacific Park is already likely to undergo some changes when (if, but that’s another story) the Newcastle Light Rail project eventually comes to that part of town, but nothing like what is being proposed for this race.

The circuit will run through Newcastle's Pacific Park

The track is also going to severely restrict access from the bus stops located on Hunter Street and at the former Newcastle station to Newcastle Beach because of the takeover of Pacific Park.

If you’re looking to build goodwill with a community and create an event that people are going to get on-board with…this isn’t it.

It gets worse, though, when you look at the final half-dozen or so corners of the proposed layout. These corners are located within the green space area adjacent to Nobbys Beach.

Again, the proposed layout does not use existing roads – as you typically expect with a “street circuit” – instead proposing to remove ocean-adjacent green space and replace it with tarmac to drive cars on.

The circuit will just about take over the reserve at Nobbys Beach

It’s madness to think that any of this is a good idea. This proposed layout is going to achieve nothing but put people offside.

If you want your event to succeed, you can’t start by making sure everyone in and around it is pissed off at you.

The proposal that we have seen is short-sighted and, frankly, exploitative. Newcastle should not have to sacrifice prime parkland in order to host the Supercars season finale.

Rendering of the proposed Newcastle Supercars street circuit

Now they’re saying that the final circuit design is subject to community consultation and the like, but with only 15 months between now and the first race in November 2017, there is not a lot of time to back-and-forth about the layout before the logistics of hosting a Supercars round need to be worked out.

I suppose we can at least be happy it’s not Wayne Russell’s “let’s close three major arterial roads” circuit.

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