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TONY RAGGATT | January 19th, 2013
BUSINESSES have grabbed the chance to have regular Australian Football League games in Townsville and organisers are hoping the city's sports-mad public will do the same.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the council-owned Tony Ireland Stadium, Ben Payne, assured fans that two-thirds of the venue's 1000-seat grandstand were released to the public after complaints families missed out on tickets.
The March 2 NAB Cup game between the Gold Coast Suns and North Melbourne Kangaroos will be the city's first elite-level AFL game.
Payless Chemists owner Chris Boyle, who has signed up to become a gold sponsor for the event, admits he had been football mad since his playing days years ago in South Australia and Victoria.
"I'd like to see AFL grow in Townsville. It's a fabulous sport to watch," he said.
AFL Townsville chairman Peter Busch said business sponsorship helped pay for the cost of staging the event, and that while hospitality and sponsorship packages were still available, business support had been good. He hoped the game would be a sell-out of 10,000 people, sending a message to the game's administrators in Melbourne the city wanted more top-level AFL.
Mr Payne said grandstand seats sold out by midday on the first day tickets were released.
Fans have complained seats were kept for corporate groups, however, Mr Payne said two-thirds of grandstand seats were released to the public, including tickets allocated to local AFL clubs.
He said 30 public shade marquees would be set up.
Townsville Enterprise economic development spokesman Matt Morris said the game would generate an estimated $2 million in spending, with visitors expected to be drawn from throughout the North.
"Because we have such a large catchment area, Mackay to Cairns and right out to Mount Isa, we really are a focus point, a central hub, for sporting events," he said.
The Suns line-up will feature four northerners - Zack Smith (Rockhampton), Jared Harbrow (Cairns), Josh Hall (Townsville) and Charlie Dixon (Cairns).
RULES MAD: Payless Chemist owner Chris Boyle with Willows store manager James Jensen