Labor is refusing to commit to building the new Penrith Stadium if it wins government next March as the project looms as a potential major election issue.
Opposition Leader Chris Minns is demanding to see the business case for the project, which involves building a new stadium on the site of the Penrith Showground and Penrith Paceway.
The Penrith Panthers would move from the existing BlueBet Stadium to the new larger stadium when it is complete in 2025. The multipurpose venue would aim to attract other sports and events and be controlled by Venues NSW.
The Liberal State Government announced it would fund a new state-of-the-art stadium in Penrith last December and confirmed in July that the Showground would be the ideal site. Infrastructure NSW has moved to compulsorily acquire the land.
It is understood State Cabinet has signed off on the project and has backed the acquisition of the Paceway and Showground.
But the resignation of State Penrith MP Stuart Ayres from cabinet and a looming State Election has thrown doubt over the project.
Mr Minns said more details were required before Labor would back the stadium build.
“Suburban sport plays an important role in our communities, particularly in Penrith where Panthers help to mentor future generations,” he told the Weekender.
“We’re looking at all options, but we are also concerned about the lack of detail around the current plan.
“We would like to see the business case, and we’re calling on the Government to be forthcoming with that information.”
The Opposition’s stance could see a repeat of scenes leading up to the 2019 State Election when Labor tried to stop the Allianz Stadium rebuild from taking place.
Panthers CEO Brian Fletcher said he saw no reason why the stadium commitment wouldn’t go ahead, but conceded it was possible that the original plan of building the new venue on the existing BlueBet Stadium site remained a live option.
“We’ve never been involved in that (the stadium location),” Mr Fletcher said.
“It was not our decision to put it where the trotting track is, that was Infrastructure NSW.”
Mr Fletcher is due to meet with Infrastructure NSW next week for an update on the status of the project.
It is understood Panthers feels confident the original $300 million commitment for the new stadium is rock solid but is nervous about exactly where the Paceway acquisition sits, particularly given it has been the subject of media scrutiny over the past week.
“The Premier has announced the $300 million, Cabinet has approved it… the other part I can’t comment on until I know more about it,” Mr Fletcher said.
The new Minister for Sport, Alister Henskens, said the State Government remained committed to the new stadium in Penrith, but was light on specifics or confirmation on the location.
“The NSW Government is consulting on a range of options as part of the Penrith Stadium redevelopment,” he told the Weekender.
“The cost and timing of construction for a new stadium will be confirmed once the consultation is completed and the scope for the new Penrith Stadium has been determined.
“The Eastern Harbour City has the new Allianz Stadium, the Central River City has CommBank Stadium at Parramatta, and the Western Parkland City will have the state-of-the-art stadium people deserve, because we’re committed to investing in communities right across our city and delivering at the appropriate time and best value to taxpayers.”
In July, Infrastructure NSW was adamant the Showground site was the best option for the new venue.
“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,” it said.
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Breaking News Reporter. He has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations. In 2023, he was named Editor of the Year at the Mumbrella Publish Awards.