Crowds up in return of Newcastle 500

The Newcastle 500 crowd. Picture: Ross Gibb

The Newcastle 500 crowd. Picture: Ross Gibb

The return of the Thrifty Newcastle 500 has seen the event deliver its second-biggest crowd in history, according to Supercars figures.

The Newcastle East Street Circuit was back on the calendar after missing three full seasons due to COVID-19 restrictions, but this time as the season-opener rather than the finale.

Supercars reported a three-day crowd figure of 167,197, second only to the 192,242 of 2017, with 2018 drawing an attendance of 162,248 and 2019 a total of 154,000 (according to City of Newcastle council).

This year’s Newcastle 500 was the last in the inaugural, five-year contract, the completion of which was elongated due to the disruption of the pandemic and saw Mount Panorama stand in as the 2021 season-opener.

The agreement to hold the event is a tri-party one between Supercars, the state government’s Destination NSW agency, and the local council.

The latter is currently consulting residents and businesses about the Newcastle 500’s future, as well as surveying event attendees, with a stall having been set up in the Foreshore Park during the weekend.

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes claimed in February, at the commencement of track build for 2023, that there is “overwhelming support” for the event, and referred to economic benefits not just for City of Newcastle, but also neighbouring council areas.

However, it is the state government which is the primary decision-marker given its status as the consent authority, and New South Wales goes to the polls for an election in 12 days from now.

Encouragingly for Supercars, Opposition Leader Chris Minns, who seems more likely than not to lead Labor back into government, spoke positively about the event in comments to local media late last month.

He told The Newcastle Herald, “I think it’s a great local event. I’ve always thought that.

“My understanding is it’s with the council, who are looking at the next iteration of it.

“We want to work with the council and make sure we get big events and big opportunities for the Hunter.

“I assume that’d be one of them.”

Photos from in and around the track at the Thrifty Newcastle 500.

Images: Ross Gibb Photography

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