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Sir Elton, Pink enhance CN’s quest to extend light rail network

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Newcastle’s ability to draw globally-recognised artists to the region should aid its cause to enhance the light rail network in the city.

With almost 50,000 people converging on McDonald Jones Stadium to see Sir Elton John’s dazzling concerts last month, the issues of traffic congestion and parking options reared their ugly heads again.

But, following the news pop powerhouse Pink is now heading to town on 13 February in 2024, council hopes that announcement could leverage a better deal with the NSW Government to rectify those concerns – and expand the existing tram services.

Currently, light rail only operates between Newcastle Interchange, at Wickham, and Newcastle Beach at the east end.

Venue manager Dean Mantle and Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes at McDonald Jones Stadium. Photo: Rod Thompson

And, it’s a situation Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes is keen to fix moving forward.

“City of Newcastle (CN) understands transport, to and from the venue, caused some headaches in January,” she said.

“Although we don’t control that aspect, it’s really important, when you’re dealing with this volume of people, that they need to get in and out safety.

“McDonald Jones Stadium is obviously a regular site for sporting fixtures that attract big-sized crowds.

“However, concerts can be slightly different.

“Patrons often come from out of the area or want to do other social activities before, or after, the event.

“That’s part of the advocacy work we do at CN with the NSW Government.

“With the upcoming election in March, having that light rail link extended out to this precinct is a priority.

“It would be ideal to get that connection – between the CBD and here – permanently.

“We’d also like to obtain funding to kick off more venues around this precinct.

“Hosting acts like Sir Elton John and Pink help our argument when addressing our needs with the government.

“It’s proof of concept.

“Due to the success of Sir Elton, and all the people locally and those who visited Newcastle, it gives us as a non-capital city negotiating power – and gravitas – when we’re trying to boost our global visitation, particularly in lieu of the planning and development work at Newcastle Airport to get an international terminal and runway there.”

Cr Nelmes admitted CN’s Major Events Partnership with Venues NSW was “exceptionally important”.

“Brett (Campbell) and his team have done an amazing amount of work to make this [Sir Elton, Pink] happen – and that must be acknowledged,” she told the Newcastle Weekly.

“So, it’s the collaboration between City of Newcastle and Venues NSW that’s been able to really be a game-changer in attracting the big music artists.

“Full credit goes to the promoters, too.

“They’re willing to put their faith in Newcastle as a location for global acts.

“And, we’re the ones benefitting.

“We are predicting a similar economic windfall for Pink.

“Sir Elton ended up being $14 million; we’re calculating – after running the numbers – it’ll come to about $12 million on this occasion.

“Hopefully, depending on demand in the next couple of weeks with ticket sales and then up until next February, that figure might increase.”

Pink is heading to McDonald Jones Stadium in 2024. Photo: ENNIO LEANZA/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Cr Nelmes said Pink and McDonald Jones Stadium was a match made in heaven.

“This is a big venue for Newcastle – and the region,” she explained.

“So, the type of performer we’d be looking to attract here needs to sell a lot of tickets.

“And, Pink ticks all the boxes.

“She boasts a good history with the city, too, playing early in her career in Newcastle in the 2000s.

“I remember going to the entertainment centre and being blown away by the aerial component of her shows.

“Now, she’s a mega-superstar.

“Pink’s known for her brilliant ‘live’ performances and I, personally, really like her socialist political edge to some of her music.

“She’s a pretty staunch feminist as well.

“So, I’m a big fan for a couple of reasons; but, who doesn’t love everything about her?

“It’s fantastic to see the community’s support, with City Hall, Port of Newcastle, Crystalbrook Kinglsey and McDonald Jones Stadium turning ‘pink’, too.”

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