TWEED Heads Seagulls Rugby League Club has launched an audacious bid to turn their Piggabeen outpost into a multi-sporting powerhouse regional facility.
The five-year masterplan, broken into four stages, would see a major overhaul of their facilities and playing arena to include carpark upgrades, a gym, new dressing sheds, and upgrades to fencing, goal posts, lighting, seating and game-day experience.
The Queensland Cup club has already injected significant resources into their football department through additional NRL funding, with the coaching appointment of former Gold Coast Titans under-20s mentor Ben Woolf.
Former NRL player Paul Stephenson has been appointed to a sponsorship and well-being position, Tweed Shire councillor James Owen has taken on consultancy, and a junior development and pathways position is soon to be filled.
Seagulls CEO Scott Clark said becoming competitive, successful and sustainable was the key behind the long-term plan.
He said with the under-20s league scrapped from the NRL from 2018, engaging with junior and senior clubs across the region would not only allow the Seagulls to create a pathway to the NRL, but create a successful environment.
"We'll (target) a young side and attract better players. If we can (show) that we're on the right track, and are looking to upgrade facilities and resources, hopefully we can retain 50% of players going forward," Clark said.
"They'll also know this is the true pathway to playing in the NRL with under-20s going. NRL clubs will only have 36 players, and for everyone outside of those players, the only pathway to the NRL will be the NSW and Queensland Cups, so there's a lot more focus on getting our structure right.
"We need to be more than just surviving. There's always been the attitude that we have punched above our weight, but we want to be known as a team that will be competitive every year."
Off the field, the club has a long-standing disconnect with the community which the plan hopes to arrest.
The club plans to launch a membership program by February which aims to see a 20% membership increase year on year to 2022, an increase in crowd averages by 15% year on year to 2022, sponsorship growth by 15% from 2019, and better engagement with Seagulls Licensed Club and its members.
"We're working with the (licensed) club to make sure there is a connect, it's a challenge as people that come to the club don't always have a connection with the footy team. So it's about trying to create a stream of memberships," Clark said.
"We want to get people to games, while tapping into the community to get a membership and come and watch."
Owen said the club would reach out to local schools and sporting clubs, and the Tweed's ethnically diverse community.
A partnership to bus people to and from the club to Piggabeen on game days, and the inclusion food trucks and entertainment is all in the works.
"It's community engagement. That's one thing the club doesn't do very well at the moment, we want Seagulls to be something that the Tweed community is proud of," Owen said.
"To do that, we needed to show we are a serious organisation, so a strategy that looks 3-5 years into the future covering all areas was important."
Owen said the club was rallying Tweed Shire Council, local members, and State and Federal governments for grants to raise an estimated $500,000.
"We want to invest significantly in Piggabeen and build a multi-purpose facility to get the club to the next level," he said.
The club also has plans to launch a women's side.
Clark was confident stage one - which includes a replacement of fencing, a field shift, new goal posts and fencing added to the main ground's eastern side - would be completed in 2018.
"We'd like to have gym and spectator facilities upgraded by 2019. Season 2018 will be cosmetic upgrades and by the 2019 season, we'll hopefully be up and running," he said.