NORTH Melbourne remains hopeful of finalising a new Hobart deal before its first 2016 game at Blundstone Arena next month, with negotiations on a five-year extension believed to be at an advanced stage.
North is entering the final season of a two-year deal with the state-owned TT-Line, which operates the Spirit of Tasmania ferries, and the Hobart City Council to play three games a season in Hobart.
It is understood the proposed new contract would see North partner solely with TT-Line, although the council could still provide support for the club's planned community programs.
AFL.com.au reported last month that North had emerged as the frontrunner to establish a club-based AFL academy in Tasmania as the League considered a report on the future of Tasmanian football by former Western Bulldogs CEO Simon Garlick.
If the AFL decides to allocate Tasmania to North as an academy zone, the club would establish a network of academy programs across the state to foster young football talent, while it is also committed to establishing local Huddle facilities.
North started the award-winning Huddle program at its Arden Street headquarters in 2010, and has since worked with thousands of young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds, helping them to better engage with their communities while fostering their leadership skills.
North's first game at Blundstone Arena this year is in round three against Melbourne (April 10), while it will also host the first Friday night game at the venue against Richmond in round 11 before playing the Sydney Swans in round 22.
TT-Line has been North's major funding partner under the existing Hobart deal, with the company believed to have contributed about 80 per cent of the game funding.
An independent report commissioned by the council found that North's three 2015 games had been worth $43.7 million in socio-economic benefits to the greater Hobart region.
If North clinches a new five-year contract, it will extend its presence in Hobart until the end of 2021, matching Hawthorn's tenure in Launceston.
North first played in Hobart in 2012 as part of an initial three-year deal that saw it play two games a season in the Apple Isle's capital, a deal that was funded by TT-Line, the council, Hobart Chamber of Commerce and RACT.
The Roos signed their existing two-year deal in August 2014.