Let there be light
Cats train ahead of Saturday night's clash with Gary Ablett's Gold Coast
Allen Christensen trains under lights at Simonds Stadium
GEELONG chief executive Brian Cook says the latest stage of the Simonds Stadium redevelopment, which has increased the capacity beyond 30,000, is "a sign that we're in the big league".
The Cats held their first training session under lights on Thursday night, and the city is abuzz as Saturday's historic night match against Gold Coast, which coincides with the opening of the new Players Stand, looms large.
"This is unbelievable," Cook said. "It's a great thrill for the club, the community and our Geelong supporters.
"I notice the publican on the other side of Mooroobool Street said today, 'This is like New Year's Eve … again!'
"People are really excited and turned on by the stadium. I haven't seen people as excited as they are to see what's going to happen with this stadium on Saturday night."
The Players Stand, which has replaced the old Doug Wade Stand at the southern end of the ground, has increased the stadium's capacity by around 7000.
"I think that whilst a lot of people feel that we've probably been one of the better sides on the field over the past 50 years or so, I think that having crowds of 22,000 to 25,000 holds us back a bit," Cook said.
"So it's great for our brand that we're moving up the ladder from a supporter point of view as well as an attendance point of view.
"I think it completes our picture a bit more."
Saturday night's festivities will be attended by a range of high-profile people, including Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
"We've got the who's who of politics, in the honourable Prime Minister, the Premier and the local mayor, so we've got the chiefs of each level of government," Cook said.
"And our president's function has probably 100 different politicians in there."
The opening of the Players Stand and the switching on of the lights will mark the completion of stage three of the club's project to transform Simonds Stadium, which has so far cost $104 million.
"The thing is that we've received so much support from government," Cook said.
"Of the $104 million, there's around about $80 million that's come from government of various levels and both sides of the political persuasion over the 10-year period.
"So we've got a lot of people who have helped us over the last decade."
Although the Cats are unlikely to host more than eight games per season at the venue in the near future, Cook is adamant that the investment in the stadium will greatly benefit the city of Geelong.
"We've done some recent studies through Deloitte, and every game now raises around $4 million in economic impact," he said.
"Half comes to us, admittedly, and half is spent outside the fence. But that $2 million in cafes, in hotels, in restaurants, with taxis, so it has an amazing impact on the community from that economic point of view."
Adam McNicol covers Geelong news for AFL.com.au. Follow him on Twitter at @AFL_AdamMcNicol