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Sydney’s stadium debate over as NSW Government commits A$1.6bn to refurbishments

The NSW Government has declared that it will spend A$1.6bn on upgrading Sydney’s major sports stadia rather than developing any all-new venues.

After months of lobbying by venues, stakeholders and sports, and the NSW Government expanding an original A$600m commitment to sporting venues by more than 150%, the money will be spent on reconfiguring ANZ Stadium at Sydney Olympic Park and refurbishing Allianz Stadium.

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ANZ Stadium to be reconfigured

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Allianz Stadium

Allianz Stadium to undergo a major refurb

The first part of the scheme will see the rebuild of Parramatta’s Pirtek Stadium, home to the A-League’s Western Sydney Wanderers and the NRL’s Parramatta Eels, at a cost of about A$300m over the next three years.

A A$700m project to turn ANZ Stadium into a permanent rectangular venue will also commence during that period, subject to the NSW Government being able to acquire the stadium business.

Allianz Stadium will be refurbished after that, rather than be replaced by a completely new stadium. What remains of the A$1.6bn will presumably fund this project.

Sydney’s newspapers have described the decision not to build a new venue at Moore Park in addition to Allianz Stadium as a “humiliation” for NSW Sport and Recreation Minister Stuart Ayres, who had previously backed the new stadium idea along with a more minor upgrade to be delivered at Olympic Park.

NSW Premier Mike Baird said he “absolutely” still had confidence in NSW Sport and Recreation Minister, but he also announced that he had handed future responsibility for future stadium policy to Infrastructure NSW, an agency not under Minister Ayres’ control.

With Premier Baird also having previously indicated a preference would be for a new stadium to be built on the current site at Moore Park, he explained:

There are many stakeholders involved and, listening to them, I strongly believe we have come to the consensus position today that is going to be truly fantastic for this city.

This was never going to be an easy process … there’s many stakeholders that are involved in this process and listening to them, I strongly believe we’ve come to the consensus decision today, that’s going to be truly fantastic for this city.

Key to the future of the venues has been long-term content agreements secured with the Australian Rugby Union, Football Federation Australia and the National Rugby League (NRL).

This will see 20 years of NRL grand finals and State of Origin matches; 10 years of rugby’s Bledisloe Cup and an additional test match each year, a guaranteed Lions Tour Test match, along with Rugby Sevens; and a 12 year agreement that will see the hosting of Socceroos and Matildas game every year.

Minister Ayres said that, after lagging behind the other major states in sporting and major events infrastructure, NSW was seizing the opportunity to get in front, stating “it is great news for these codes, as participation and attendance grows in the years to come, but more importantly it is great news for the NSW economy”.

The decisions have been welcomed by leading stakeholders.

ANZ Stadium Managing Director, Daryl Kerry, stated:

By investing in the future of a network of stadiums in Sydney, the (NS) Government has ensured NSW will continue to attract world-class events, while also providing the best possible sport and entertainment facilities for fans of the major football codes.

The planned investment in ANZ Stadium – Sydney’s Olympic stadium – will unlock the potential for major development throughout Greater Western Sydney, in particular Sydney Olympic Park and the Olympic Corridor through to Parramatta, earmarked as Sydney’s second CBD.

Kerry said the plan to transform ANZ Stadium would give Sydney one of the great rectangular stadiums of the world and, most importantly, was fantastic news for the fans who turn out week in week out to watch their favourite sporting teams in action and at major sport and entertainment events.

He added:

Once the ANZ Stadium redevelopment is complete, the fan experience will go to a completely new level with the rectangular redesign bringing fans dramatically closer to the level on all six levels of the Stadium.

Sydney will boast the best rectangular stadium in the Southern Hemisphere, which will be complemented by other major infrastructure projects including the WestConnex motorway project and the Western Sydney Light Rail network, which in turn will transform the transport experience to Sydney Olympic Park and the Stadium.

NRL Chief Executive, Todd Greenberg, said fans will secure the best stadium facilities in the game’s history, commenting “this is a big moment for our sport, and a significant moment in time”.

ARU Chief Executive Bill Pulver admitted that, while his original preference was to build a new stadium at Moore Park, he felt the new stadia network could help boost Australia’s chances to host a second Rugby World Cup, though that wouldn’t likely come to fruition until the 2031 tournament.

Pulver stated:

(This) is a very bold and imaginative plan.

There are bowl challenges at ANZ because you are so far from the ground but in the new stadium, even the seats farthest away will be 50 metres closer to the game.

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of going to Millennium Stadium (in Cardiff, Wales), when the roof is on the atmospherics are mind blowing.

However, Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust Chairman, Tony Shepherd, was clearly disappointed at the decision advising:

The SCG Trust notes the Premier’s decision regarding the stadia strategy and, as a public body, will provide every assistance in its implementation.

 

 

Cronulla Shark Park

Cronulla Shark Park

Suburban Sydney stadia to benefit A$40m NRL new centres of excellence plan

The NSW Government’s announcement on the A$1.6bn funding of Sydney’s major sports stadia also includes a A$40m allocation for the NRL Centres of Excellence fund, under which NSW NRL clubs will be able to refresh their local facilities on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

The funding, while representing a relatively small percentage of the total stadium’s package, will have significance for suburban grounds such as Sydney’s Leichhardt Oval, Shark Park, Brookvale Oval and WIN Jubilee/Kogarah Oval.

Current NSW Minister for Sport and Recreation Stuart Ayres and his predecessor Graham Annesley had, in 2012 and 2014, indicated that the NSW Government would no longer invest in traditional NRL venues.

In 2014, Minister Ayres suggested that Sydney’s nine NRL clubs would only survive by generating more revenue from higher memberships and use of the bigger venues.

He was quoted by Sydney newspaper The Sunday Telegraph as stating “if you’re an NRL club driving towards 20,000 to 25,000 members, the suburban ground will not service your membership and won’t have enough seats to sell to other customers as well”.

However, the Bulldogs playing a single home game at their traditional home ground, the Belmore Sports Ground, and attracting large crowds in each of the last two NRL seasons, has shown that suburban grounds remain popular.

Commenting on the fund, NRL Chief Executive Todd Greenberg stated:

This is an historic day for rugby league … one which will give our fans the comfort and facilities they deserve.

Our aim was to ensure that rugby league benefited from any allocation of stadium funding – and this package delivers that outcome.

 

Piece written by: Nigel Benton, Publisher, Australasian Leisure Management; an Official Media Partner for our Stadia & Arena Asia Pacific 2016 conference & exhibition being held at the Yokohama Arena this September, 26-28.

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