Cronulla Sharks bold proposal to share ownership of revamped Shark Park with the NRL
Cronulla Sharks bold proposal to share ownership of revamped Shark Park with the NRL

Sharks bait: Cronulla offers NRL share of stadium

The Cronulla Sharks have offered the NRL a joint-venture opportunity potentially worth tens of millions of dollars in a unique partnership to build a "mini-Bankwest" stadium at Shark Park.

The Sharks would provide the land, the NRL would lobby the government for funding and in return they would get a shareholding that would become the cash-strapped code's first major asset.

Sharks chief executive Dino Mezzatesta is soon to put the proposal to independent commission chairman Peter V'landys and the state government as an alternative to building a $200 million facility at Kogarah that would be used only six times a year by St George Illawarra. It would then go to Sharks members for final approval.

 

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Shark Park could be developed into a ‘mini-Bankwest’ stadium.
Shark Park could be developed into a ‘mini-Bankwest’ stadium.

 

"We will never leave Shark Park," Mezzatesta said. "And we believe this is a huge opportunity for not just the Sharks but for the entire game to have an asset with commercial opportunities."

State treasurer Dominic Perrottet is soon to announce government funding for four new suburban grounds in Sydney in return for a 25-year commitment from the NRL to keep grand finals in the Harbour City.

Kogarah Oval has been earmarked for the first project followed by Liverpool, Brookvale and Penrith. The NRL wants the Sharks to quit their traditional home ground to share Kogarah with the Dragons.

"That won't be happening," Mezzatesta said. "I've spoken to the NRL about our plans and they have no authority over where our games are played. They can't tell us to move.

"We have an obligation to our members and fans to keep games at Shark Park."

 

Sharks chief executive Dino Mezzatesta insist the club will “never leave” Shark Park. Picture: AAP
Sharks chief executive Dino Mezzatesta insist the club will “never leave” Shark Park. Picture: AAP

 

The Kogarah plan is a shock in that St George Illawarra already has Wollongong and won't leave.

"I don't want to sound disrespectful but our case and is far more appealing than either Brookvale or Kogarah," Mezzatesta said. "There is huge revenue opportunities for the game from a facility like this. This is a long-term investment for the game.

"We get the a state-of-the-art facility and the NRL shares in the commercial opportunities

"If the NRL is successful in achieving funds for stadia, it's something we'd talk to them about. We would explore them having part-ownership. Or even the state sharing ownership.

"We'd make it worthwhile for the NRL and the community."

A new boutique stadium in the Shire would sit alongside the $400 million redevelopment that includes a hotel and an 18,000 sqm precinct for shopping and dining.

 

The Sharks have grand plans for redeveloping Shark Park. Picture: Brett Costello
The Sharks have grand plans for redeveloping Shark Park. Picture: Brett Costello

 

"In an area like this, why would you have no rugby league content here," Mezzatesta said.

There would be a plan to build a southern Sydney rugby league academy as part of the project, similar to the Penrith Panthers.

Cronulla has the third-biggest junior rugby league nursery behind only the Penrith Panthers and the Parramatta Eels with more than 500 junior participants.

"We have 12,000 OzTag participants, 4000 touch footballers and the largest number soccer registrations in the country," Mezzatesta said, "If you're looking for multipurpose use, we're hard to beat. There's also an opportunity for Southern Districts rugby union.

"The commercial opportunities for the venue and the NRL as a stakeholder are enormous."

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Originally published as Sharks bait: Cronulla offers NRL share of stadium


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