Time to demolish ANZ stadium?

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ANZ Stadium before the start of the opening match of the 2013 State of Origin. (Phil Mahony/The Roar)

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“The best thing Osama bin Laden could do to get the league fans on side in Australia is blow up Homebush Stadium. That’s the greatest blight on sport. It looks like nobody’s there.”

That’s what millionaire businessman John Singleton said back in May, 2008.

A couple of weeks ago , the NSW state government unveiled a $250 million revamp of ANZ stadium which included key features such as a retractable roof and retractable seating behind the goal posts to make it rectangular.

Here is a design on how ANZ stadium could become a rectangular venue.

I don’t know about you, but I find that to be aesthetically awful.

Surely that has to be a draft, and not a final design. A stadium with gaps looks so damn ugly.

If the NSW state government had the funds and spent $250 million worth of taxpayers money for a stadium to look like that, is not only a waste, but a massive joke.

I am not a stadium construction expert, but maybe if you remove half of the seating from the top tier, and placed them in those ‘gaps’, it could be an improvement.

The way I see it, they should disregard those plans and go with these three options.

- leave it as it is (use the taxpayer funds on more important things);
– make it permanently rectangular;
– follow Singo’s advice.

ANZ stadium, or Stadium Australia, by its original name, was designed to accommodate and facilitate for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games where it needed to cater for a running track in the stadium.

Since the Olympics, the venue has been used as a multi purpose facility to cater for all sports, whether it be in ‘rectangular’ or ‘oval’ mode.

The real criticism of the venue, is that the seating is too far away from the action, especially with the rectangular sports of league, union and football. So with that in mind, in my opinion, I would choose the second option; make it permanently rectangular.

Here is my reasoning.

ANZ Stadium this year will hold around 30 events that require a rectangular shape, which includes over 20 NRL matches, two Socceroo World Cup qualifiers, two Origin matches, two Wallabies Tests, a Manchester United appearance, a possible NRL finals match and the NRL grand final.

Compare that with eight events that require the stadium to be in oval mode, it includes, three AFL matches, four cricket T20 Sydney Thunder home games and a T20 international.

With the AFL matches, both Sydney Swans and GWS Giants should play out of their respective home bases of the SCG and Skoda Stadium.

The SCG is currently redeveloping the Northern Pavilion grandstand to the tune of $186 million, $136 million of that is contributed by the State and Federal governments, while the rest is funded from the SCG Trust.

Also in 2008, the Victor Trumper Stand was built and costed at $82 million, $50 million of that was contributed from State and Federal, while the rest was from the SCG Trust.

So all in all, in the last five years, taxpayers have contributed around $186 million towards the two redevelopments at the SCG.

The Sydney Swans this year have nine matches scheduled at the SCG.

Wouldn’t be wise if they played their full compliment of 11 home games at the SCG, especially when you consider the amount of taxpayer expenditure been spent at that ground?

The capacity of the SCG will be 48,000, which is nothing to be sneezed at.

While with GWS, they should play all of their home games at the 25,000-seat Skoda Stadium.

This year, the Giants will only make seven appearances at the old showgrounds. Seven home games, and the Easter Show does make Skoda stadium severely under utilised.

I also think that Sydney Thunder should move their four home games to Skoda Stadium.

Last season in the Big bash, Thunder only averaged 10,277 at ANZ.

In one home game, the Thunder had a crowd of 4,101 in a stadium that holds 84,000. Depressing. As for the T20 international, move it back to the SCG.

Both of those AFL teams and the Sydney Thunder have a ground to go to.

ANZ’s regular tenant, the NRL’s Canterbury Bulldogs, have no choice but to call Homebush home, with their traditional home ground, Belmore Sports Ground deemed unfit for the NRL.

Canterbury, along with regular ANZ tenant and fellow NRL team, South Sydney Rabbitohs, have average crowds more or less around the 20,000 mark.

If the stadium was rectangular, along with a roof, then there is potential for both teams to have increase average crowds. If that were to happen, then you might see a third NRL team move to ANZ.

In recent times, the NSW government have had a stadium strategy where they outlined plans to shift funding away from NRL suburban grounds, and move funding towards major stadiums like ANZ and Allianz.

If the NSW government want ground rationalisation and want to attract a third or fourth NRL team to ANZ, wouldn’t it be sensible if that stadium was permanently rectangular?

In the last few months, the Stadium Australia Group (SAG), holders of the lease at ANZ stadium, offered to ‘sell’ it back to the state government for $100 million.

It was blocked by NSW Treasury officials. SAG have been annoyed by the funds that Skoda and the SCG have received, while ANZ has been left behind with an outdated 14-year old stadium.

Although on a positive side, the stadium does make $10 to $30 million profit annually.

The lease does run out until 2031, which means that the stadium and property reverts back to full ownership by the NSW government, through the Sydney Olympic Park Authority.

With the Manchester United match coming up, forecasters are predicting that Man U will bring in $16 million towards the NSW economy.

Maybe the solution is to get more major events like Manchester United and the British and Irish Lions, and in a round about sort of way, those major events could help fund the stadium upgrade.

Whatever happens, ANZ does need something. At the moment, the old Olympic stadium is not revered in the same light like the other Australia venues like MCG, Suncorp, or overseas stadiums like Wembley or Old Trafford.

In fact, ANZ is despised and least liked. As a mulit-purpose facility, it has tried to please everyone, but sadly, it has been the direct opposite.

A global city like Sydney, should have a world class rectangular stadium to go with the iconic oval shaped SCG.

Surely Sydney should have a rectangular stadium that’s on a par, if not better then Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.

The NSW State Government need to make the right choice of design with ANZ Stadium. Failure to do so, not only will the venue lack credibility, but your better off demolishing it and start all over again.

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