Novocastrians hoping to attend the Newcastle Cup will have to win tickets via a ballot that opens on Monday, but entry to the city's first top-tier world surfing event since 1990 will be free.
In an exclusive Q&A published in today's Newcastle Herald, the World Surf League's Asia-Pacific general manager Andrew Stark says a ballot is the "fairest way" of allocating tickets given the event has a capacity of 3000 people under the state's COVID-19 regulations.
"We've partnered with Ticketek and tickets will be randomly distributed. Fans can enter the ballot to reserve tickets from 10am on Monday, March 22nd," he said. "Then the ballot closes on the 29th. We're limiting four tickets per person per day
"We would love nothing more than to have twenty or thirty thousand people on the beach but unfortunately due to COVID we just can't."
There will be about 300 competitors and officials at the event, leaving roughly 2700 tickets available for the public each day.
The Newcastle Cup is scheduled to begin from April 1 but, depending on whether the contest is delayed to wait for suitable conditions, it might not finish until April 11.
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People can register for tickets on any, or all, of the 11 days. The contest will only run for about five or six days, but the 11-day window allows for lay days if conditions are not suitable.
Tickets can not be rolled over if there is a lay day.
Mr Stark said the event would look and feel a lot "different to Surfest" with fences set to be erected around the Merewether beach precinct.
"As part of our permit from the council and NSW government, we will have to fence the venue," he said.
"Given we have to restrict the number of people that come in, we have to have infrastructure in place to help us achieve that.
"The fence will need to be sight-blocked out because we can't have people congregating around the venue looking through fences. That creates COVID issues.
"We do have to follow all the necessary guidelines ... and the event will look different to Surfest in that regard.
"That is not by choice. We'd love to have thousands of fans on the beach, but that is not the world we live in."
Mr Stark said spectators would be spread along the sand and beach promenade. He encouraged ticketholders to "bring a beach chair" as they will have to be seated. Seating spaces will be on a first come first serve basis.
Newcastle Cup tickets FAQs (via WSL)
Why is the WSL requiring free tickets to enjoy these events?
COVID-19 regulations require limited capacity at our upcoming Australian events. To ensure the safety of the athletes, staff, and local community, we are keeping the crowd size within the New South Wales government's limit of 3,000 people. Tickets are FREE and can be reserved online.
How can surf fans reserve their free tickets?
Free tickets can be reserved through the Ticketek website starting at 10:00 a.m. AEDT on Monday, March 22nd. You must reserve your free ticket for a specific day of the event window. Fans can reserve up to four (4) free tickets per person. Unreserved tickets may be released at any time during the event so always keep an eye on the Ticketek website.
How are the free tickets distributed?
Since demand for free tickets will be high, WSL has partnered with Ticketek on a ticket ballot system. This ballot system will randomly disperse the free tickets using Ticketek's computer-generated algorithm.
Can ticket holders freely approach competitors for autographs and photos?
To adhere to the New South Wales social distancing protocols, fans may not approach the competitors during the event and are only permitted into the General Admission areas.
Can local recreational surfers access the venue when the competition is off?
Surfers will be free to access the surf on any non-competition day. On competition days, the venue will go into lockdown at 5:30 a.m. AEDT. Any surfer that comes to the gate with their board will be allowed in to access the water prior to surfing starting, once competition starts surfers will be advised to surf outside the event perimeter. Surfers will not be allowed to stay and watch the event without.
Do tickets allow me to leave during the day and come back?
Yes. When leaving the venue, you must scan out your ticket at the Main Gate. If you leave the venue without scanning out, you will not be able to re-enter.
What happens if the day I reserved a ticket for ends up being a non-competition day?
There are no guarantees that the competition will run on the day of your ticket. If the day of your ticket ends up being a non-competition day, you will not be issued another ticket, but you can try to reserve a ticket for another day on the Ticketek website.
What happens if I cannot make it to the event until after 11am local time?
Surfing is due to commence at 7:00 a.m. AEDT each day. Due to high demand and restricted crowd capacity, all unused tickets may be voided at 11:00 a.m. AEDT. Those tickets will be released on the Ticketek website for fans to reserve.
What happens if I do not receive a free ticket through the ballot system?
If you are unsuccessful in the ballot and do not receive a free ticket, you will be notified via email. Unclaimed free tickets will be re-released to the public at 10:00am AEDT Tuesday, March 30th.
Can I bring my child in for free, even though they don't have a ticket?
No. Due to strict capacity limits specified by the New South Wales government, WSL will not be able to let in anyone who does not carry a valid ticket.
Does my free ticket come with an assigned seat?
No. Seating will be on the sand on a first come first serve basis. There will be space for all to safely socially distance themselves on the beach and we ask that all fans in attendance remain seated while inside the venue.
Can I bring a picnic rug or a camping chair into the venue?
Yes, we encourage people to bring in their own picnic rugs and low camp chairs to maximise their viewing experience. As a reminder, you must be seated while inside the event venue.
I have more questions, who can I ask?
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions you may have around the free tickets.