Are we spending too much on stadiums?

The_Wookie Roar Guru

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    As a sports fan, I love a good stadium. As an AFL fan, we’ve enjoyed the ovals and upgrades to facilities that are announced on a regular basis. However, as an Australian taxpayer, I have to ask whether it’s all a bit too much.

    In recent times, more than 1.8 billion dollars has been allocated to stadium builds – and yes, much of that comes from the Adelaide and Perth developments. $100 million of it will come from the AFL and various crickeet trusts.

    The $1.8 billion rises to $2.5 billion if you factor in the last eight years (which includes a $464 million MCG Northern Stand Redevelopment, though admittedly only $77 million came from the Victorian government). The question we should all be asking is just how State Governments will find the $1.7 billion to build stadiums.

    You have to remember that these are the same states complaining they don’t have enough funds, in particular South Australia and Western Australia, who complain about funding shortfalls every time the budget is due.

    Apparently, though, they think nothing of spending an easy half billion dollars on professional sports infrastucture.

    In Perth, NIB stadium has received approval for an $82 million stadium upgrade, while at the same time the government intends to spend another $700 million on a stadium that will be used maybe 25 times a year for AFL matches.

    From a pure economic standpoint, wouldnt that extra $85 million best have been invested in the 60,000 seat stadium that will sell out perhaps twice a year, if only to justify the return on investment over time?

    Instead, you have union, A-League, and potentially rugby league playing out of the little 25,000 seat rectangular stadium, cricket playing out of the WACA, and AFL having this massive tailored stadium more or less to itself.

    In Adelaide, the economics border on ridiculous. The A-League club will play out of the 15,000 seat Hindmarsh stadium, while two AFL clubs will play out of the new, shiny Adelaide Oval they will share with cricket. Cricket barely utilises the ground to its current capacity, let alone requires the new one.

    In Sydney, the SCG has approved a 186 million dollar upgrade – whole stadiums have been built for this recently – in a stadium that is almost never full, while the government is upgrading the showgrounds despite there being an 80,000-seat oval stadium right next door, and an underutilised 36,000 seat stadium across the city.

    In Queensland the government has recently built Carrara, which aside from Commonwealth Games use will only be used for 11 AFL matches a year, while across the coast is a rectangular stadium that is also underused by its tenants.

    Yes, I get that soccer, league and union are vastly better to watch in rectangular stadia. I just can’t justify it in the face of hospital closures and extensive waiting lists for critical procedures. I can’t justify it when funding for life saving medical treatments is being cut or is non-existent. I known where I’d rather our taxpayer funds go.

    People won’t die if they have to watch Australian football at ANZ Stadium, people won’t die if they have to watch football at the new Perth stadium. Then there are other issues. There are 180,000 homeless people in Australia that need help – they won’t be able to sleep on the bright red Carrara terraces. Tens of thousands of people live below the poverty line – they wont be able to afford the food at ANZ stadium anyway. Thousands more are out of work and will not benefit from these stadiums one iota. The refugee issue gets no closer to being solved by building the stadium at Burswood, unless it will house the boat arrivals when they get here.

    Where have our governments’ priorities gone when giant edifices which primarily benefit professional sporting organisations that rake in millions per year in profit are put ahead of public health and safety? Surely if we must build stadiums – and I get that sport is an essential part of Australian culture – then the public have a right to expect more bang for their dollar?

    It’s not like the average community player will benefit. Most will never set foot on the turf, or do anything other than sit in one of the brightly coloured seats for which they have had to mortgage thir house, and sell their cars in order to buy a pie and a beer in a plastic cup.

    Cricket and the AFL share grounds across the country, while rugby league, union and football have all been played on the MCG and Etihad. Not to mention the Gabba, Carrara and the SCG. It can be done, it should be done. Theroetically the more use you get out of a stadium, the cheaper it should be for patrons to enter. Compare AFL entry prices at the MCG with anywhere else in the country for most sports.

    Stadiums should be for the consideration of all.

    Major Stadium Grants in 2011-12
    Skoda Stadium (Sydney Showgrounds) – $20 million
    Metricon Stadium (Gold Coast) – $144 million
    Sydney Cricket Ground – $186 million
    Melbourne Cricket Ground (Southern Stand) – $55 million
    Simonds Stadium (Geelong) – $29 million
    Adelaide Oval – $570 million
    Burswood Stadium (Perth) – $700 million
    NIB Stadium (Perth) – $82.5 million
    Bellerive OVal (Tas) – $21 million (applied for)
    WIN Stadium (NSW) – $29.8 million
    Penrith Stadium (NSW) – $5 million
    Total: 1.8 billion