The farewell party has been postponed.
The Penrith Panthers will play at BlueBet Stadium in 2023, as the State Government confirms it has entered negotiations to acquire the Penrith Paceway and build the stadium on that site.
There is every chance the Panthers would continue to play at BlueBet through the entire construction period, with the new stadium not likely to be finished until the 2025 season.
But at this stage the State Government has moved to give the Panthers and NRL certainty about where the club is playing next season despite a deal not yet being done with the Paceway.
Should the Paceway deal be finalised, confirmation about the 2024 season would certainly follow.
“The NSW Government has commenced commercial negotiations for the acquisition of the Penrith Paceway, as part of the Penrith Stadium redevelopment,” an Infrastructure NSW spokesperson said.
“The existing Penrith Stadium will continue to be available for the Penrith Panthers’ 2023 NRL season, which provides certainty to the Penrith Panthers and its fans.
“Following a six-week community consultation program, feedback from over 3,000 people provided a clear picture of what the new stadium needs to deliver.
“The Paceway site would facilitate a state of the art stadium with an improved game day experience for fans, with modern amenities that exists within a precinct that is activated throughout the week, not just on event days.
“Timing of construction for a new stadium will be confirmed once the acquisition process is completed and the scope for the new Penrith Stadium has been determined, which is expected in late 2022.”
The State Government announced last December that a new world class stadium would be built in Penrith on the site of the current BlueBet Stadium.
The Panthers had even used ‘The Final Season’ branding when promoting games this year and commenced negotiations to move home matches to Parramatta’s CommBank Stadium from next year.
But it emerged some months ago that the Penrith Paceway site was in play, providing a best of both worlds scenario – Penrith gets a new stadium, but the current venue can remain open during construction.
The Paceway has made it clear in the past they are open to the acquisition if the deal was right. They had already commenced planning for a potential move out of the Penrith CBD in the coming years.
Penrith MP Stuart Ayres, who has been a central figure in negotiations details around the new stadium, welcomed today’s development.
“I welcome the commencement of commercial negotiations by Infrastructure NSW for the acquisition of the Penrith Paceway as part of the redevelopment of Penrith Stadium,” he said.
“The stadium redevelopment is a significant opportunity for Penrith and it’s critical we achieve the best outcome possible for our whole community.
“The practical outcome of this is that Penrith Stadium will continue to be used by the Penrith Panthers in 2023 and available to other hirers.
“The Penrith Paceway, its Harness Racing and Agricultural Show have been an important part of the Penrith community for a long time. These negotiations are as much about securing their long term future in Penrith as they are about redevelopment of the Stadium.”
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Senior Writer. He has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations.