In defence of Etihad Stadium

Pat Hornidge Roar Rookie

By Pat Hornidge, Pat Hornidge is a Roar Rookie

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    Over the last few years, many have called for the demolition of Etihad Stadium and the construction of a newer, better venue in a different location.

    Usually the objections are the following: it’s hard to get to, it has no soul, or it blocks the CBD from Docklands and means that the two are to be forever disconnected.

    But all are baseless – Etihad is an exceptional sporting venue.

    The argument that Etihad has no soul or atmosphere is without merit. In fact, it seems to be the only place in the entirety of Docklands that has any soul at all. That might be the problem with it – the surroundings that it’s in.

    I parked at Waterfront City before going to a game last year, and the area is just dead – even on Saturday nights. That’s not a problem with the stadium, that’s a problem with Docklands, it’s not yet a destination that people want to go to.

    I think some people still also think that the stadium has no history, and its soulless for that reason. I think that they forget that the stadium is now nearly 20 years old, and in that time, it has created many stories and is making its own legends.

    Etihad Stadium: A soulless monolith or a modern day colosseum? (Photo: Creative commons)

    The atmosphere itself, as with anywhere, surely depends on the crowd. And not just crowd size, but how invested the crowd is in the game, and how the game is progressing on the field. A one-sided game between North Melbourne and Gold Coast will of course not have the same atmosphere as a close contested game between Richmond and Geelong. But that is not due to the stadium, that is to do with the crowd itself.

    A close, important game between the Bulldogs and North Melbourne on a Saturday Night will have have a much better atmosphere than an unimportant Collingwood Carlton game on a Sunday afternoon.

    If a game is exciting, then 20,000 people can easily seem louder than 100,000. Crowds not grounds make the atmosphere, so if you find Etihad soulless, it’s the people there that are the problem.

    The stadium can easily be improved though. The food options are basically non-existent and there are few places to actually eat it, especially when compared to stadiums such as the MCG. If the AFL is serious about modernising it, then providing more food has to be priority number one. Give us different options, and places to eat.

    That’s what the AFL and management of Etihad Stadium can do. What the state government can do is better connect the stadium (and the entirety of docklands) with the CBD. It’s not the stadium that’s forming a barrier, it’s the rail yards.

    While it might be a dream, the idea of building over the yards is certainly achievable. That alone would give the stadium a connection to the city, and give the city more space.

    Etihad stadium is not the MCG, but it is a good stadium. It could be better – but to blame the stadium for a lack of atmosphere is a horrible argument.

    It is a stadium which is creating it’s own legends and history. It has become central to the story of the AFL this century, and will continue to be central to it for the foreseeable future.

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    The Crowd Says (26)

    • Roar Pro

      September 7th 2017 @ 6:00am
      The Doc said | September 7th 2017 @ 6:00am | ! Report

      interesting read Pat. Have to agree and disagree. Positives are that its central and with SOuthern cross station so close it is easily accessible from all parts of melbourne. It is comfortable, dont worry about weather and contrary to what you have mentioned I think the amenities and food options are pretty reasonable (if not their cost).
      I have been to all the grounds in melbourne over 20 years and watched soccer, AFL, league SOO at etihad, MCG and AAMI. Can safely etihad has the worst atmosphere. It is just a function of acoustics. 30,000 at the G are louder than 55 at etihad. The importance of the game can help e..g. SOO but sound just doesnt reverberate. I think melb victory games are best example – AAMI park is rocking, the chants get around the ground quickly and its closer to the action (function of playing on a rectangular ground of course).
      That being said suggestions to rip up etihad are ridiculous. Government needs to do more to make docklands a place to visit – leave that to the town planners

      • September 8th 2017 @ 10:17am
        Nineteen said | September 8th 2017 @ 10:17am | ! Report

        Totally agree with The Doc in regards to Southern Cross and great central location.

        In 2016 I had the good fortune of attending more than a dozen games there in a corporate box and I will say that the boxes at Etihad are superior to those at the MCG as they are closer to the ground. It’s easier to ‘feel’ the action there.

        At the G you’re too far back and on an acute angle.

        Stadium wise I really like Etihad. General seats are comfortable, some sections have armchair TVs and as others have pointed out you’re sheltered from the weather.

        In the final round I watched the Dogs vs Hawks and we had general admin tickets. The only issue was our seating was in the back row near the 50m arc and the angle of such a position meant you could not see the goal square.

        The venue is newer, cleaner but devoid of the decorated history of the G. The covered roof and surface make for a faster gameplay (perhaps it’s also the teams that play there).

        Finally there not too much difference in the dinning experience compared with the MCC dining room and the Medalion Club. Sure you have the history and the food maybe slightly better at the G but nothing material. All in all I’m a convert!

    • Roar Guru

      September 7th 2017 @ 6:37am
      mds1970 said | September 7th 2017 @ 6:37am | ! Report

      How could anyone fault the location? It’s ideal – right next to Southern Cross Station. After the game you’re on the train (or Skybus for us interstaters) going home in no time.

    • September 7th 2017 @ 7:41am
      truetigerfan said | September 7th 2017 @ 7:41am | ! Report

      Don’t really care what happens to Etihad Stadium. Just stop forcing the Tiges to play ‘home’ games there! The G is our home!

    • Roar Guru

      September 7th 2017 @ 9:48am
      Paul D said | September 7th 2017 @ 9:48am | ! Report

      I think the talk about levelling Etihad has been killed off. Ryan wrote a lengthy piece on this entitled Renovate or Detonate I believe. The age of governments and sports bodies constructing multi billion dollar sports stadiums is coming to an end in Australia – Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne are all completed, Sydney is embarking on their generational upgrade of grounds at present and Brisbane – well, I can’t see the Gabba getting a facelift for some decades. That concrete bowl is practically indestructible anyway.

      From all accounts Etihad is a great venue and just needs the support and infrastructure put in around it. Just make sure the roof is open in summer for big bash games when they’re letting off fireworks, otherwise it’s the world’s largest sauna

    • September 7th 2017 @ 10:06am
      Billary Swamper said | September 7th 2017 @ 10:06am | ! Report

      My tip. Docklands Stadium will be demolished by 2030.

      Stadiums generally have a lifespan of 30 odd years. Even at the MCG the grandstands tend to get demolished every 30 odd years and there are already plans to knock over the Southern Stand in the next decade.

      What could happen is Docklands will go, the AFL will sell the site for billions and the league will do what they have done in every other state and get the government to build themselves a brand new stadium(s) elsewhere. Maybe Sandown Park or somewhere north west/west of the city. Maybe two 50,000 seaters.

      AFL footy might be losing it’s appeal as a spectator sport in Melbourne also, so the demand for 50,000 odd seats might be excessive. 35,000 might be sufficient.

      In any case, Docklands will be demolished sooner or later. They will never rebuild at that site that is for certain.

      • September 10th 2017 @ 3:01pm
        Leonard said | September 10th 2017 @ 3:01pm | ! Report

        “Stadiums generally have a lifespan of 30 odd years” – Rome’s Flavian Amphitheatre over 300, more like 450. Still in [limited] use today, but with distinctly different events; perhaps drug dealers and people traffickers could be ‘for-one-appearance-only star attractions.

    • September 7th 2017 @ 11:58am
      Gyfox said | September 7th 2017 @ 11:58am | ! Report

      Am I the only person who likes Docklands? It is the easiest stadium to get to – & I’ve been to AFL grounds in every state except Tassie. The atmosphere is great with 20K & there are plenty of food/drink options, with that new outdoor bar on the city side. The best part is being able to walk right around the stadium & stand behind either goals. The only stadium where you can do that.

      Not sure where you live, Billary, but AFL still pulls in the crowds – beating the other codes hands down, to say nothing of up with the world’s best – as we will see at the Finals this week.

      • September 7th 2017 @ 2:27pm
        I ate pies said | September 7th 2017 @ 2:27pm | ! Report

        I’m with you Gyfox. I think it’s a great ground to watch footy; and you’re really close to the action compared to the MCG. I went to the very first game under a roof there (the first footy game ever under a roof), and it was fantastic. It’s still fantastic 20 years later.

        • September 8th 2017 @ 5:01pm
          mickyo said | September 8th 2017 @ 5:01pm | ! Report

          I like Etihad better than the MCG for watching football, however i like the pubs around Richmond for a beer before and after a game, so it sort of evens out.

      • September 7th 2017 @ 2:30pm
        Leonard said | September 7th 2017 @ 2:30pm | ! Report

        No.

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