Excitement levels are shifting up a gear in Newcastle’s city centre, with motorsports fans counting down to one of the biggest weekends on their race calendars – the finale of the Supercars Championship.
But with four days of high-octane activities planned across a range of precincts, it’s not just race-goers set to be entertained this month when Newcastle hosts its largest event of the year.
The Coates Hire Newcastle 500 will roll into the city on November 23-25, bringing with it millions of dollars’ worth of finely-tuned race cars, the best V8 drivers in the country and tens of thousands of motorsports fans eager to see who will cross the line first when the chequered flag falls.
This will be the second consecutive year Newcastle has played host to the final round of the Supercars series, with races to be contested on a challenging 2.6km street circuit that runs through the eastern end of the Newcastle CBD, taking in scenic views along Shortland Esplanade, Newcastle and Nobby’s beaches and Newcastle Harbour.
With four support categories adding to the racing schedule throughout the weekend, including the SuperUtes Series that features Warners Bay driver Charlotte Poynting, there will be plenty of on-track thrills to keep fans occupied.
But the action won’t just be contained to the main racing precinct, with a concerted effort this year to activate a number of areas in Newcastle and Hamilton with events designed for both race-goers and residents.
City of Newcastle has been working with Newcastle Now and the Hamilton Business Chamber on a range of activities that will bring locals back into the city during the Newcastle 500, while also encouraging Supercars patrons to explore the region.
Offering a festival atmosphere, the Entertain Newcastle program promises to create vibrant spaces that will help local businesses make the most of the major event weekend.
Newcastle Now Executive Manager Richard Christian said research amongst local businesses identified a desire to create a campaign that would primarily encourage locals to continue to engage with the city centre throughout the Newcastle 500, even if they weren’t attending the event itself.
“We’ve put together, in consultation with the business community, a whole series of activations that will primarily attract local residents into the city, but will also serve as an attraction for the people that are going to the event,” he said.
“We wanted to make sure we have some things happening that are going to welcome local residents and invite them into the city even if they're not going to Supercars, just to engage with the city and be a part of the festival atmosphere that’s happening on that weekend.
“From a Business Improvement Association’s perspective, we’re very much focused on trying to derive benefit for the businesses in the city from the event. It’s very important that our local residents and local communities engage with those businesses and support those businesses throughout the year, including that weekend.”
Planning for the Entertain Newcastle program was focused on a number of different precincts in Newcastle and Hamilton including Beaumont Street, Gregson Park, Darby Street, Civic Park, the Hunter Street Mall and Market Street, as well as the city’s East.
Richard said the events targeted a wide demographic of people, with something for all ages to enjoy.
The program will kick off with the Hamilton Super Start-Up from 4.30pm on Thursday, November 22, where motorsports fans will be given a chance to get up close and personal with their favourite race car drivers. All 26 Supercars drivers will take part in a signing session at Gregson Park, with a live broadcast of the trackside program, children’s activities and car displays adding to the V8 vibes and party atmosphere.
A driver cruise from the park down Beaumont Street will follow to draw people into the business precinct, with businesses offering late night trading as well as a range of entertainment and deals throughout the evening.
The action moves to the city centre the following day, with the Newy Super Breakfast helping race fans fuel up for a big day trackside.
Enjoy tasty breakfast offers by local cafés in Market and Hunter Streets from 7am–10am on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Super Breakfast is designed to capture the crowd en route to the race precinct, giving event-goers an opportunity to sample delicious offerings from local businesses, or stock up on handy trackside supplies including sunscreen.
Racegoers wanting a break from the on-track action and residents with a keen interest in technology will also be encouraged into the Hunter Street Mall from Friday to Sunday to see the Newcastle Innovation Showcase, presented by the University of Newcastle, TAFE, Climate Council and City of Newcastle Smart City Team. Running from 8am to 3pm each day, it will highlight the latest environmentally-friendly electric vehicles including a variety of Tesla models, as well as prototype race cars, a race simulator and robots playing soccer from the University of Newcastle’s cutting-edge robotics department.
An augmented reality art exhibition will fuse art and technology in a whole new way, while the City of Newcastle will showcase its efforts to help create a smarter and more innovative Newcastle with a presentation from the Smart City team. A range of roving entertainers will also help activate the mall, with local businesses trading throughout Hunter Street.
The youngest members of the family will also be well catered for, with the Newcastle Now Family Fun Zone taking over Civic Park from 8am to 4pm Friday through Sunday.The Disney Pixar Cars Truck Tour will roll into Newcastle for three days, offering children the chance to strike a victory pose on the Champion’s Podium with Mack the Transporter, check out the Crazy Eight’s Track, get creative in the Cars Play Zone and wear themselves out on the Cars inflatable slide and obstacle course.
There will be an ice cream truck in the park each day, face painting available from 9am – 12pm on both Saturday and Sunday and a special two-hour hoola-hoop workshop with Ruby the Clown on Sunday, November 25 from 11am – 1pm.There will be plenty of things to do once the sun goes down as well, with Darby Street Turns It On lighting up the Cooks Hill precinct from 5pm on Friday, November 23.
An ideal night for locals to get some friends together and celebrate Friday night at the city’s popular dining destination, with live music kicking off from 5pm in a range of venues, as well as great food and late-night trading.
A festive spirit will also arrive in time for the Supercars, with businesses simultaneously turning on their Christmas lights to illuminate the street from 8pm.
With nothing on the official program this year on the Friday night, the Darby Street event offers a great opportunity for racegoers to see more of the city.
Saturday night, however, will take live music to the next level, with the official Newcastle 500 concert set to rock the grandstands at Newcastle’s No.1 Sportsground.
Firing up from 6pm, the concert is exclusively for those with a valid Saturday race ticket and will be headlined by international megastars Simple Minds, ably supported by Australian rock legends Birds of Tokyo.Walking routes through the city will highlight locations to eat, drink, and enjoy everything Newcastle has to offer before the amazing live entertainment kicks off.
Capping off a full-throttle weekend of activities, the Sunday Super Session will be held in various venues throughout the city’s East from 12pm on November 25, with pubs and restaurants offering a range of Sunday Session Super deals to encourage both residents and motorsport fans to check out the local live entertainment once the chequered flag drops.
Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said lessons learned from the inaugural Newcastle 500 last year allowed the City of Newcastle and other organisations to really hone in on how to make the most out of the event for locals, businesses and visitors alike.
“We haven't had to focus on all of the asset renewal works that we did last year, and we’ve got the lessons learnt and the knowledge of last year’s event, so we’re actively encouraging people, even if you aren't going into the race precinct in Newcastle East, to come in over the three days and enjoy festivities across the city,” Nuatali said.
“There are just a huge suite of activities throughout the city area over those three days, not just in the race precinct. We want everyone to share in the fun of the event through these activations and for businesses across the city to benefit from the Newcastle 500.”
Cr Nelmes said securing the Newcastle 500 for a five-year period (from 2017-2021) offered an unprecedented opportunity to showcase the city internationally, with the Supercars Championship broadcast to 97 countries, with a potential reach of 232 million households around the world.
A new report, commissioned by the City of Newcastle and compiled by the Hunter Research Foundation Centre, also revealed the huge economic boost the Newcastle 500 provides for the region, with the 2017 event estimated to have injected more than $30 million into the local economy in Newcastle alone.
The independent report was based on an analysis of mobile phone data, banking records and business transactions, specifically within the Newcastle local government area, with economic benefits including $8.94 million in direct expenditure by visitors, $9.71 million in flow-on effects, $4.97 million in direct local expenditure by Supercars and $6.5 million in flow-on effect from Supercars Australia’s local spending.
The analysis does not include the direct economic benefit or flow-on effects in neighbouring areas including Port Stephens, Lake Macquarie, Maitland and Cessnock.
“This report confirms what many Novocastrians already knew - the inaugural Newcastle 500 was an outright economic success for the city, with $30 million in direct and indirect economic benefits,” Cr Nelmes said.“
Almost 83,000 visitors to the City enjoyed themselves in Newcastle East and Cooks Hill over the three days, accounting together with local attendees for the 192,000 figures previously reported.
(L-R) Craig Lowndes, Simona De Silvestro and Mark Winterbottom . Photo by Mark Horsburgh, Edge Photographics
“What’s new in this report is the banking data that shows Supercars fans spent up big, with the research demonstrating how the money flowed through the city.
"While this research means we can now quantify the economic boost for the city, the advertising benefits from the phenomenal media coverage with regard to long-term tourism are harder to quantify, even though the value of coverage is estimated at $1 million.“
Mainstream media, the report notes, recorded an audience of 8,641,042 people and social media posts reached 630,000 users, so the race also brings with it enormous potential for tourism growth at a time when the city has never looked so good.“I also think it’s really good for people to see the city that they love reflected back through national images. It gives everybody a sense of pride in their city.”
Cr Nelmes said the experience of hosting an event like the Newcastle 500 would open up more opportunities for the city well into the future.
“It’s helped us even in the past 12 months in that we’ve had a lot of event operators approach us as a serious option to host large events, so it has been a game changer in terms of repositioning Newcastle,” she said.
“It also familiarised local businesses in working with large events, and we’re seeing a change in how we’re activating a larger amount of precincts this year, so that’s an up-skilling, really, of local staff and businesses and employees.
“I see events as the real opportunity, in terms of repositioning Newcastle as a host city, so our strategy is to keep leveraging off the success of Supercars, to attract other large events, not just sporting events but also cultural events to the city.”