Committee for Geelong CEO Jennifer Cromarty
The hotly anticipated announcement of the 2026 Commonwealth Games for Victoria has officially landed, and our city is in prime position to host a range of events. It’s already been announced that Geelong will host aquatics, para swimming, beach volleyball, cricket, gymnastics, hockey, table tennis, para table tennis, triathlon and para triathlon. There is plenty of opportunity to host more sports and the Closing Ceremony as well.
As Victoria’s largest regional city, we have a long history of successfully running world-class events. With range of existing and planned infrastructure, we can be rightly excited and proud at this opportunity to showcase our region. How we leverage being a hub for the Commonwealth Games and ensure the infrastructure developed is a positive legacy for the region is the challenge.
The Committee for Geelong is determined to ensure that we plan for the long term and design our city based on principles of sustainability, equity and economic resilience. The Commonwealth Games presents us with an opportunity to work with government to invest in the necessary infrastructure to ‘grow well’ and be a modern city with global standing.
Kardinia Park is our elite sporting hub with significant investments in the precinct over many years including into the re-development of GMHBA Stadium. However, there is a need to finalise the precinct’s Masterplan to ensure we can realise its full potential. With close access to our rail line and walking distance to central Geelong, the Kardinia Park precinct will play an important role in the Games. To realise its potential, the Masterplan must be expedited.
With over $500 million invested in the visitor economy-focused Geelong City Deal, the planned Geelong Convention & Exhibition Centre on our waterfront will also be an invaluable asset and is set to be completed in 2026.
The Little Malop St cultural precinct can help tell the story of Geelong’s designation as a UNESCO City of Design. Through the unique architecture of the Geelong Regional Library, the globally recognised Back to Back Theatre, along with re-developed Geelong Arts Centre, we can offer an outstanding creative experience for visitors. Add to this, the proposed Geelong Gallery’s $114 million expansion, and we can herald a new era of cultural identity to share with the world.
The Games local organising committee will need to work with government and local stakeholders over the next four years to ensure that the increased infrastructure investment, particularly in terms of affordable and social housing as well as public transport infrastructure, is realised.
As Australia’s fastest growing regional city, we already know that public transport in the region requires significant planning and investment. Geelong is a heavily car-dependant city. This needs to change. Major investment is needed to ensure reliable, attractive modes of public transport are available. With the predicted influx of visitors, now is the time to trial and implement zero emissions mass transport modes like advanced rail-less trams (‘trackless trams’) to ensure regular and ease-of-use transit systems in and around the city. Funding a much-needed rail station at Avalon airport and finalising infrastructure needs for the Spirit of Tasmania will also assist in transporting visitors into our city. The airport and the ferry could also be linked to an advanced rail-less tram service.
The Commonwealth Games will also require housing. Any athletes’ village housing development must be leveraged for the long term and ultimately re-purposed as affordable and social housing for our community. With the aim to have 12,000 people living in the central Geelong area in the coming years, the Commonwealth Games provides incentive to fast-track residential housing developments in and around the city. In a post-COVID world, our central business district needs to be reimagined as a central ‘social’ or ‘experience’ district with a focus on increased residential populations to drive economic growth.
The Commonwealth Games coming to Geelong is just the catalyst we need. We need to embrace the Games, to not only showcase our region and its existing assets but leverage the necessary investments to design our future for all.
Image: The Age