I have written about this before, but I feel this topic needs to be revisited at this time of the year: Melbourne needs a third football stadium.
Since the late 1980s and early 90s, ground rationalisation and the desire for city football has seen the demise of Windy Hill, Victoria Park, Princess Park, Whitten Oval, Moorabbin and Waverley Park.
While most had to go due to their dilapidated conditions (Victoria Park, Whitten Oval etc), some were just punted because of a desire to have only two grounds working in Melbourne (Waverley, Princess Park).
The result has in many ways been positive:
1. Better conditions for fans.
2. Modern effective and workable stadiums for broadcasters and corporate sponsors.
3. Better playing conditions for players.
4. More opportunities for bigger crowds.
But this situation has also created many problems:
1. Surrendered the AFL’s ability to control a ground full-time, and keep all revenue to a stadium desperate to make money (Docklands) and a stadium home to another six-month sport (MCG).
2. Has left struggling teams slaves to ground deals that short change AFL clubs pulling power.
3. Left south-west Melbourne (where a majority of Melbournians reside) without a football stadium in their area so the AFL could put invest in a stadium in the city, a long way from the growth belt.
4. Destroyed the concept and spirit of having a proper home ground.
The MCG and Docklands have around 48 games each next season. Docklands stadium’s pitch, which was always considered suspect, proved last year that in a desire to make money (AC/DC concert), the surface will suffer and players’ safety will be compromised.
Also, with the introduction of Gold Coast this year and GWS Giants in 2012, many games such involving low-supported teams like Melbourne and North Melbourne will see embarrassing looking crowds and will add pressure to the bottom-line.
In seeing these issues, I feel Melbourne needs a third AFL stadium in the south-west of Melbourne with a capacity of 25-35,000 that can cater for many of these issues (AFL controls ground and revenue, lessens Docklands ground stress, make low drawing game crowds look less embarrassing).
While the Waverley site is out of bounds (Hawthorn’s training ground and a housing estate), places like Moorabbin or Casey Fields that have football history but lack football are perfect places for the AFL to invest in, updating a stadium and playing games.
The AFL could schedule between 10-15 games at these grounds which would also give the people of south-west Melbourne a chance to see games in their own backyard. St Kilda who have roots in the area, could maybe do a six-six split of games with Docklands to give the ground a home tenant.
The AFL won but also lost in the ground rationalisation phase. A third stadium will go a long way to fixing some of those issues.