The Supercars circus returns to town tomorrow with a promise to cause less disruption before the second running of the Newcastle 500 motor race.
Contractors will close off Wharf Road between Watt Street and Horseshoe Beach Road on Monday and start erecting a works compound near Foreshore Park.
The six weeks of construction until the race weekend on November 23, 24 and 25 will include installing concrete and wire barriers, removing roundabouts and speed humps, and building grandstands and the three-storey pit building.
Last year’s bump-in also began in mid-October but followed months of major road and landscaping works to build the circuit.
Some residents campaigned last year against the Newcastle 500 being run through the city’s main heritage precinct, and many remain unhappy with noise, access, vibration, parking and insurance issues arising from the first event.
The Supercars track work and now-completed light rail construction in Hunter and Scott streets discouraged people from coming into the city centre for months.
Event manager Kurt Sakzewski said Supercars had refined its bump-in schedule to install the track’s concrete barriers “a little bit later and little bit quicker”.
“It should be a little bit easier for everybody,” he said. “Everything we learnt from last year we can put into practice this year.”
Destination NSW, the state government tourism agency, said in July that it was happy with the economic benefits that flowed from last year’s event.
It said more than 20,500 people had travelled “specifically” to attend the race, and these visitors had spent $12.5 million, although 15 per cent of this spend was outside the Hunter.
Some Newcastle hotels and hospitality businesses shared in the bounty, but many said they had suffered months of disruption without gaining extra trade.
It is understood Newcastle City Council is working on activities to draw spectators to the CBD on Thursday, Friday and Sunday night during the race weekend.
UK rock band Simple Minds will headline the main Supercars concert at No.1 Sportsground on the Saturday night.
Mr Sakzewski said Supercars was also working with Renew Newcastle, the operator of the newly restored Newcastle Station, to “finalise details of how that space can be used as part of the event”.
“We’ll be inviting people to come in there,” he said.
The station was used to house race teams in support categories in 2017, but these will move to Foreshore Park this year.
Mr Sakzewski said he would not be surprised if attendance dropped “a little bit” this year, but the grandstands had almost sold out again.
Supercars last week announced a rejig to its 2019 calendar, but the Newcastle 500 will remain in late November as the final race in the championship.
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