Suite deal: NRL to open rugby league-themed hotel in Brisbane

Queenslanders who need more of Wally Lewis than his statue can offer will soon be able to get into bed with him, with a suite to be named after the rugby league great in an NRL-themed hotel.

The ARL Commission has just completed a reported $25m acquisition of Brisbane’s Gambaro Hotel 300 metres up the road from Suncorp Stadium.

Accommodation at the Caxton Street pre-State of Origin drinking hole for Maroons fans will be fully rebranded, with rooms to be named after “the game’s legendary players” including Wally Lewis, Allan Langer and Darren Lockyer suites.

The NRL announced the purchase from well-known hospitality family the Gambaros on Monday, calling it the Commission’s first investment aimed at strengthening the NRL’s financial position and indicating more are to come.

ARLC chair Peter V’landys and NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo have recently spoken about investing in ventures to future-proof the code, especially after the pandemic.

“The ARLC has a focus on strengthening its balance sheet with stable, secure investments that provide steady income, long-term capital growth and to protect the game against major interruptions,” it said.

The hotel’s award-winning seafood restaurant and popular bar will continue to be run by the Gambaro family, but the 68-room boutique accommodation offers the NRL “considerable upside potential and numerous options for expansion and development of ancillary facilities”.

Already the concept has spawned sarcastic commentary from amused social media users suggesting a booking would allow guests to live like an NRL player during their stay.

“I’d like to think that Hotel NRL/Villa V’landys, is more than just rugby league names for rooms,” tweeted one. “Give me Bellamy tearing the cooks to shreds, Ricky on the phone losing his shit cos the English fill-in double booked a room, Dugan dishing out Cruisers with a wink behind the bar.”

The deal is reported to have blindsided some of the code’s biggest figures, including Brisbane Broncos chair Karl Morris, Sydney Roosters chair Nick Politis and South Sydney chair Nick Pappas.

It comes two years after the ARLC floated the short-lived idea of ‘NRL Island’, a proposed biosecure bubble off the Queensland coast designed to avoid a cancellation of the 2020 NRL season.