by the time the last sprintcar passes the finish line at Premier Speedway tonight the sport’s loyal fans will have injected millions of dollars into the city’s economy.
Warrnambool’s accommodation, hospitality, tourism and retail sectors are reaping the benefits of the vast travelling army of speedway fans and team crews, who chose to stay in the city after last weekend’s Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic until the two-day Australian Sprintcar Championship, which finishes tonight.
It has been at least a decade since the city last hosted Australia’s two biggest sprintcar events on consecutive weekends.
General manager of the Premier Speedway Club David Mills said the financial boon sprintcars bring to the city continued to grow as the event’s popularity increased.
“The economic stimulus from the speedway is increasing all the time, it’s something we are very proud of,” Mr Mills said.
Warrnambool City Council events and promotion manager Luke Cann said the speedway generated a real buzz within the city.
Based on figures from Tourism Research Australia, which estimated sport tourists spend an average of $244 a day, Mr Cann said conservatively speedway visitors to Warrnambool spent more than $3 million in the past week.
“Economically it brought in over $3 million and attracted more than 16,500 visitors to the city,” he said.
“The event boosted retail, tourism and hospitality businesses and promoted Warrnambool as a world-class destination for premier events.”
He said 13 per cent of the crowd comprised international visitors.
Ninety competitors took part in the Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic, compared with just 56 entries four years ago.
Mr Mills said about 100 different teams, with between four and 10 people in each, would take part in the two weekends of racing. And then there are the fans.
“It’s a real fanatic, gypsy-type environment where people follow the events,” Mr Mills said.
“For a lot of people, this will be their annual leave so they will be out and about enjoying the sights of Warrnambool.”
The economic benefits are not lost on city councillor Peter Hulin, who has called for Warrnambool to cash in on the event.
He wants the popular fan appreciation day for the annual January event brought back to the city centre after it was transferred from Swan Reserve to the eastern outskirts three years ago.
“The amount of lost revenue to the CBD would be enormous,” he told this week’s city council meeting.
“We could close the centre of Liebig Street on the Saturday morning and bring the fans into town.”
Mr Mills said in 2005 a demographic study showed the speedway contributed 17,000 overnight stays in Warrnambool during the season.
The study also showed in one season spectators alone contributed $6 million to the region’s economy — a figure Mr Mills estimated would be easily surpassed this year.
Mr Mills said he believed many people in the wider Warrnambool community underestimated the value of the event, especially its ability to attract visitors from across Australia and overseas.
“This is one of the top three venues in the country,” he said of the Allansford Premier Speedway.
“But people on the outside wouldn’t have a clue how big it is and the standing we have on the international scene. We are very proud of it and we hope people in Warrnambool are also because (the event) has major benefits for Warrnambool.”