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|WIN Stadium, Sea-Side Stadium|
|Former names||Wollongong Showground
|Location||Wollongong, New South Wales|
|Owner||Wollongong Sportsground Trust|
|Operator||Wollongong Sportsground Trust|
|Illawarra Steelers (1982-)
St. George Illawarra Dragons (NRL) (1999-)
South Coast Wolves (NSL) (2000-2004) (NPL NSW) (2014-)
Wollongong Showground, known as WIN Stadium for sponsorship reasons, is a multi-purpose stadium located in Wollongong, Australia. The stadium was officially opened in 1911. From 1982 until 1998 it played host to every home match for the Illawarra Steelers NRL team, and is still the team's home ground in the lower grade competitions. It is now used as one home ground of the St George Illawarra Dragons rugby league side and South Coast Wolves of the National Premier Leagues NSW.
The stadium was originally used primarily for agricultural shows and hosted a greyhound track as well, the name of the venue prior to 1911 was the Wollongong Showground. It is considered to be officially opened in 1911, when the sport of rugby league began playing at the stadium.
When the Illawarra Steelers entered the NSWRFL premiership in 1982, they played their home games at the stadium. Six years after their inception into the competition, the Steelers along with the then Showground Trust converted the ground into a rectangle. In 1992 the southern stand was built. WIN Television purchased the naming rights to the stadium in 1997.
In April 2002, an $8 million upgrade to the stadium saw the opening of a new Northern Grandstand. The 6000 seat grandstand also brought increased corporate entertainment facilities. WIN Corporation provided half of the funding for the upgrade.
In 2006, redevelopment was meant to begin on the stadium's western stand. The western grandstand was to be demolished and replaced by a new stand which was to hold 2500 general seats, 20 corporate boxes as well as media facilities and food and beverage outlets. The $37 million redevelopment was to see a four-star hotel integrated into the stadium which would have allowed fans to watch sporting events from the comfort of their hotel room. The WIN Stadium Trust believed that the redevelopment would provide significant job opportunities locally and bring in new revenue of approximately $2.1 million per year. However, in late 2006 the NSW State Government decided against funding the much needed upgrade. The financial viability of a $100 million proposal for the redevelopment of the western grandstand was questioned by State Cabinet.
In October 2009, the NSW Labor Government announced $28.9 million in funding for the construction of a new western stand, under a revised plan. The new western grandstand will be a much simpler design than the original "hotel stand" but will result in a much larger ground capacity. The new stand will seat 6,170, taking WIN Stadium's ground capacity to approximately 23,750.
On 20 September 2011, high winds bucked the western grandstand roof which was still under construction, causing a redesign and delay in the opening of the stand with the upper tier not being ready for occupancy until half-way through the 2012 NRL season.
Following the announcement of the $28.9mil western stand redevelopment, it would seem that WIN Stadium will remain as the region's major sporting facility. Also, as further commercial and residential development occurs in the eastern and southern city areas, parking will become an even bigger issue. WIN Stadium is practically reliant on street parking.
Many critics of the stadium claim that the Illawarra region would be better served by moving the stadium from the current site and building a new stadium in a better location. Kembla Grange, J.J. Kelly Park, Thomas Dalton Park and Shellharbour City Stadium in Albion Park are often suggested as alternative sites for a major sporting precinct.
The primary tenants of WIN Stadium are the St. George Illawarra Dragons rugby league team, who play four of their twelve home games there (the rest are played at WIN Jubilee Oval, in the St. George area, and ANZ Stadium). The current attendance record for WIN Stadium was set during a NRL finals match, when 19,608 watched the Dragons defeat rivals the Cronulla Sharks.
The Illawarra Steelers lower grade sides currently play home games at the venue, as they have for the past thirty two years.
WIN Stadium hosted a match during the 2008 Rugby League World Cup, between France and Fiji. The stadium has also played host to two pool games of the 2003 Rugby World Cup: Canada vs Tonga and France vs United States, and is also used by the Illawarriors rugby union team during the Shute Shield. It also hosts the Grand Final in the local Illawarra Rugby competition.
The Wollongong Wolves Football Club once played their home games at WIN Stadium until the club went bankrupt. Their successor, the South Coast Wolves, who currently compete in the NSW Premier League, now play their games at WIN Stadium.
On 9 November 2014, WIN Stadium is scheduled to host its first rugby league international since the 2008 World Cup, and the first ever appearance of the Australian national team in Wollongong when the Kangaroos will play Samoa in the final round robin game of the 2014 Four Nations. The game is expected to break the ground record attendance of 19,608 set during the 2005 NRL Finals between St George Illawarra and their local (Sydney) rivals Cronulla.
There is a five-bus drop-off bay located at the WIN Entertainment Centre, which is located next to the stadium behind the northern grandstand. The nearest train station is the Wollongong station, which is approximately 1.4 kilometres (20 minutes walk) from the stadium. As the stadium is located at the eastern end of the Wollongong Central Business District, there is a well suited public transport infrastructure. Street parking is available, though parking complexes (such as the Wollongong City Council Carpark) are usually much more accessible.
On game days when St George Illawarra play at WIN Stadium, a shuttle bus service runs between Wollongong Station and the stadium. Also, surrounding streets (including sections of Harbour St, Marine Dr and eastern Crown St) are closed to traffic.
- WIN Stadium official website
- WIN Sports and Entertainment Centres official website
- St. George Illawarra Dragons official website
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