Cessnock Mayor’s Bold Plan: Introducing the ‘Wine Country 500’
In a surprising turn of events, Cessnock City Council has announced its intention to replace the Newcastle 500 with its own Supercars event in 2025. The 2024 Newcastle 500 was recently canceled, and Cessnock Mayor Jay Suvaal wasted no time in proposing an alternative.
The Newcastle City Council, on the other hand, has taken steps to ensure that its event will not return anytime soon. Reconstruction of permanent roundabouts and raised pedestrian crossings on the street circuit route effectively put an end to the Newcastle 500. Amidst this shake-up, Cessnock is aiming to make its vision for the ‘Wine Country 500’ a reality.
Cr Suvaal revealed that council representatives have held talks with Destination NSW (DNSW), which previously provided funding for the Newcastle 500, to discuss hosting Supercars. Furthermore, the council claims to have reached out directly to the category itself.
While details are sparse at the moment, these developments demonstrate Cessnock’s determination to bring back the Supercars to the Hunter Valley. The Newcastle 500 made its debut in 2017, replacing Sydney Olympic Park as the season finale. After a three-year hiatus due to COVID restrictions, the event returned in 2022 and became the season opener.
Interestingly, it was revealed that at least two senior Cessnock council staff members were involved in the planning of the Newcastle East Street Circuit, according to the Newcastle Herald. This background knowledge could prove invaluable in the development of the proposed Wine Country 500 track.
Cessnock Mayor Suvaal had previously suggested various locations for the track, including utilizing Cessnock Airport’s runways and taxiways or repurposing former mining land. However, the feasibility of these options remains uncertain, leaving conventional street circuits as the most practical choice.
One key aspect that Cessnock intends to capitalize on is its picturesque vineyards, aligning with the proposed name of the event – Wine Country 500. A circuit surrounded by these scenic wineries would offer a unique backdrop to the racing action.
From a business perspective, Cessnock boasts a similar catchment area to Newcastle, making it an attractive alternative for both fans and sponsors. Newcastle city councilor Elizabeth Adamczyk acknowledged the accessibility of Cessnock for many Newcastle residents, who were found to be the biggest supporters of Supercars in their community.
While the state government and Supercars have yet to announce their stance on the proposed Cessnock event, New South Wales Premier Chris Minns and tourism minister John Graham have previously expressed support for the Newcastle 500. It remains to be seen if this backing will extend to Cessnock’s venture.
In the meantime, DNSW has confirmed its commitment to supporting next year’s Bathurst SuperFest, which includes the Repco Bathurst 12 Hour and the Thrifty Bathurst 500, set to replace the Newcastle 500 as the Supercars season-opener in 2024.
The Supercars season has consistently attracted significant crowds to its street circuit events. The last Newcastle 500 saw its highest attendance since its inaugural year in 2017, while the Bathurst 1000 and Gold Coast 500 also witnessed impressive turnouts. The Adelaide 500 experienced a slight increase in attendance, surpassing 260,000 spectators over four days.
As Cessnock pushes forward with its ambitious plan, only time will tell if the ‘Wine Country 500’ can become a reality. With Cessnock’s stunning backdrop and the proven success of Supercars street circuits, this event could bring a thrilling motorsport experience to the Hunter Valley.
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