The Newcastle Knights hope to be based at their $20 million centre of excellence by next year.
Knights chief executive officer Philip Gardner and NSW Minister for Sport Stuart Ayres turned the first sod of soil on the 6000-square-metre complex at Broadmeadow on Wednesday.
The Knights' training and administrative centre will be built within the proposed District Park sports precinct, less than 100 metres south-east of the Andrew Johns Stand at McDonald Jones Stadium, and will finally give Newcastle's NRL club somewhere to call home.
Comparing the facility to similar centres used by the Brisbane Broncos and Penrith Panthers, Gardner believes the Knights' new headquarters will be the equal of any in Australian sport.
"We're looking at having the whole precinct finished sometime in 2020, and hopefully the fields even earlier than that," Gardner said.
"We've come a long way in our journey with the Knights, from being the nomads of rugby league with port-a-loos and temporary fields … to today's announcement where we'll have a state-of-the-art centre of excellence.
"This will be as good as anything that anyone has in any professional sport in Australia, and it's a credit to the government of Gladys Berejiklian and Minister Ayres that they're investing this money with us in a regional market.
"This will be the best regional facility in Australia, it will cater from the Central Coast to the Queensland border, and it will look after not only the Knights and our aspirations and our needs, but the needs of the entire sporting community.
"This is the green heart of Newcastle. Where we're standing right here … is where everyone comes to play sport. Whether it's tennis, whether it's soccer, whether it's rugby league, whatever it is, this beating heart of our community is now going to be the beating heart of the Knights, and our aspirations to be the most respected sporting organisation in Australia."
The NSW Government has kicked in $10 million to the project, matching the contribution made by the Wests Group, which owns and operates the Knights. Gardner said the $10 million government commitment was guaranteed irrespective of the result of the March 23 State Election.
Mr Ayres said the centre would include training and playing fields, a 2.5km walkway and cycle path, and outdoor gym equipment to be used by sporting and community groups as well as the Knights.
"One of the things we're very committed to as a government is making sure that there's good-quality sporting facilities right across NSW," Mr Ayres said.
"When we embarked on renewing sporting infrastructure, from grassroots sporting infrastructure right through to our major stadium network, we knew there was a big gap in high-performance facilities.
"We wanted to partner with our most well-known sporting brands across the state to develop those high-performance facilities, but also make sure that they had a very strong community-facing focus.
"I wish the Knights every success throughout the course of the year – not that much success when they're playing the Panthers – but beyond that, plenty of success.
"But what I'm really excited about is the opportunities that will be created here for people right across this community to get the best out of rugby league, to get the best out of sport, and have a beacon of light, positivity and hope that comes from this Newcastle Knights centre of excellence.
"They're one of the strongest brands in this region, they are leaders in the community, and we're backing them every step of the way."
Knights captain Mitchell Pearce hoped the centre would in time help lure players to the club.
"It's obviously a massive thing for the town and for us as players," Pearce said.
"Hopefully when it's up and going, other players from out of town will see it as another attraction to the club as well. Obviously winning and success will hopefully be on the board over the next couple of years, then with the centre of excellence, it's only going to add to the character of the club and the direction that it's going, which is hopefully upwards and onwards."