|This article needs additional citations for verification. (April 2008)|
|Former names||Wollongong Showground
|Location||Wollongong, New South Wales|
|Owner||Wollongong Sportsground Trust|
|Operator||Wollongong Sportsground Trust|
|Illawarra Steelers (NRL) (1982-1998)
St. George Illawarra Dragons (NRL) (1999-)
South Coast Wolves (NSWPL) (2010-)
Wollongong Showground (sponsored name: WIN Stadium) is a rectangular multi-purpose stadium located in the city of Wollongong, New South Wales, 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. It is now used as one home ground of the St George Illawarra Dragons rugby league side.
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 and three major issues ensured that the proposal did not receive the green light.
- The proposal sacrificed too much of the number two training ground, which is an area that needs to be retained as green space.
- Cabinet requires a larger payment for the development land than the $20 million offered by the proposal.
- The proposal did not include a hotel component, which a 2003 feasibility study considered critical to the overall viability of the site.
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 23,150.
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. However, the likelihood of Wollongong being part of a potential Australian World Cup bid is now unlikely. FIFA have strict requirements for World Cup Stadia, including the need for a minimum of 45,000 seats. It would be almost impossible to upgrade WIN Stadium to these requirements as there is very little room to expand and it is unlikely that a stand would be allowed to be built on the eastern side of the ground, where the eastern hill forms part of a coastal sand dune. Also, as further commercial and apartment developments occur in the eastern and southern city areas, parking will become an even bigger issue. WIN Stadium is practically fully 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 half of their home games there (the rest are played at WIN Jubilee Oval, in the St. George area). The current attendance record for WIN Stadium was set during a NRL finals match, when 19,608 watched the Dragons defeat traditional rivals the Cronulla Sharks.
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.
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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