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Build it and they will come: What to do with Sydney's stadia

ANZ Stadium is set for a major facelift, while the rebuild of Allianz Stadium has been set aside. (Image: ANZ Stadium)
Roar Guru
4th December, 2014
58
1132 Reads

There has been plenty of talk about sporting venues in Sydney and its surrounds.

Some of the plans for some sporting venues in Sydney are great, some of them need work, and some of them need more explaining, especially in visual form to help convince me that they are viable projects.

Here is an explanation of planned stadium redevelopments, and my views on the proposed stadium redevelopments for sporting venues in Sydney.

ANZ Stadium
ANZ Stadium, also known as Stadium Australia, is planning a redevelopment that is a very futuristic, yet very realistic project that will certainly change the game in terms of what a stadium can offer its patrons and visitors.

In summary, they are planning to create a lively precinct that would be used on game days, as well as for daily use.

The stadium would have moveable end stands, which means the spectators at each end of the ground will be much closer to the action for rugby league, rugby union and football matches.

There would also be a state-of-the-art retractable roof, which can open and close in around 20 minutes, new public fan concourses, a members’ vertical village, and new experiences for corporate spectators.

Adding to this, theming of the stadium in home team colours on the outside of the stadium, and improved technology, with the ability to connect with fans over the internet, as well as order food right from your seat, creates a great experience for all sporting fans alike.

All of this is aimed at creating a much more intimate atmosphere for spectators and players, with the crowd capacity kept to its current standing of 80,000-plus spectators.

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Adding to this, the new transport developments around ANZ Stadium will allow for much improved access to a stadium that will be regarded as one of the most technologically advanced multi-purpose stadiums in the world.

It would be the home of the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and South Sydney Rabbitohs, host for State of Origin games and NRL grand finals, a home ground for the Wallabies and Socceroos and a possible home ground for the Greater Western Sydney (GWS) Giants. It would also be a home ground for the Sydney Thunder and a host ground for Twenty20 internationals.

It would also be a ground that can host marquee and exhibition games for many different sports, and is capable of hosting world-class events, such as the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championship, due to the ability to reconfigure the stadium.

Looking at the plans, it is something that I have never seen before, and I think it is the best thing I have ever seen.

This is a project that must happen, and if it does happen, ANZ Stadium could well become the best stadium by far in at least the southern hemisphere, if not the world. It could well be the best thing to happen in Australian sport.

Western Sydney
Despite the plans for ANZ Stadium, there is still the craving for another big stadium in the western suburbs of Sydney, with a seating capacity of more than 40,000 that can cater for your rectangular sports, such as football, rugby league and rugby union.

Many people have backed Pirtek Stadium, also known as Parramatta Stadium, as the perfect location. However, the estimated cost for the redevelopment of Pirtek Stadium is over $300 million.

Another option that almost everybody has seemed to have forgotten about is a proposed stadium at Blacktown. Blacktown Stadium, one of the proposed stadiums as a part of the failed 2022 FIFA World Cup bid, appears on paper to be a stadium that would meet the demands of the western suburbs of Sydney, a big stadium with a seating capacity of more than 40,000 that can cater for all of your rectangular sports.

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However, the big unknown would be the cost to build a new stadium in Blacktown. If it costs equal or less to build a new stadium compared to redeveloping an existing stadium, such as Pirtek Stadium, it might be better building a new stadium, and creating new modern infrastructure instead of adapting old infrastructure to meet the demands the future may bring.

In my view, the proposed Blacktown Stadium is my preferred choice for a second big stadium in the western suburbs of Sydney. I believe that the Western Sydney Wanderers deserve their own modern stadium with their huge fan-base, regularly filling the smaller and less modern Pirtek Stadium to capacity.

The stadium would be primarily the home stadium for the Wanderers, and be another stadium that can host finals matches and occasional regular season matches in the NRL and other associated rugby league competitions, as well as host rugby union matches.

This plan can work.

Allianz Stadium
Seemingly in competition to the ANZ Stadium proposed redevelopment, there is a great push to redevelop or build a totally new stadium at the site of Allianz Stadium, also known as the Sydney Football Stadium.

However, there seems to be a conflict between key backers of a proposed redevelopment project for Allianz Stadium.

Some are saying that the seating capacity should be kept at its current figure, and are in favour of a clear transparent roof, likely made of ethylene tetrafluoroethylene, or ETFE, similar to the roof at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin in New Zealand, creating a dome-like stadium and allowing for perfect weather conditions for each and every match.

Others are saying the seating capacity should be increased to 65,000, either through redevelopment, or by building a whole new stadium on the site of Allianz Stadium. It is not clear whether the stadium would be a dome, or have a retractable roof, or neither of these options.

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However, what is clear is the desire to create an experience for fans of any sport, which was explained well by Ben Gibbon on The Roar earlier this year.

My view on the proposed project is that it could be a good project for this area of Sydney, however, it is probably not as good as the proposed ANZ Stadium development. I think the Allianz Stadium project details needs to be made clearer to everyone interested, and the plan fully showcased to convince people that the project is viable.

It appears clear that the main person driving for this project to go ahead is NRL boss David Smith, who wants rugby league’s biggest games to return home to a location closer to the Sydney CBD.

However, no matter which way they decide to go with this project, Allianz Stadium will be the home to the Sydney Roosters in the NRL, Sydney FC in the A-League, the NSW Waratahs in Super Rugby and finals matches in rugby league.

Whether it will host bigger events in the future, such as State of Origin and the NRL grand final remains to be seen.

Brookvale Oval
Another interesting project being proposed is one at the home of the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, Brookvale Oval.

Manly club chairman Scott Penn wants to replicate AT&T Park, which is the home of the San Francisco Giants in Major League Baseball in the United States on the current Brookvale Oval site.

Although I’m not sure that they could actually replicate AT&T Park exactly, the vision from Scott Penn of a multi-purpose stadium that can have a seating capacity of 40,000, with additional features, such as cafes and restaurants, as well as facilities underneath the stadium, is clear.

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“I’ve been to San Francisco and spent a lot of time there and have been through the stadium,” Penn said.

“They created a precinct. In baseball they play a lot more games, about 60 TO 70 home games, so they get good utilisation. You don’t want a white elephant. You want to use it.

“We need to have 20,000 undercover seats. You want facilities underneath the stadium. There is a need for additional retail and commercial space. A residential hotel. We have to look at what makes it financially viable.”

This proposed project has great support from not only the Sea Eagles, but also the Central Coast Mariners and the North Harbour Rays in the National Rugby Championship.

I feel that this could potentially work. It may be hard to replicate AT&T Park, but the vision is there, and the proposed project has got support from key stakeholders in that area. So with the right treatment and support, this project can work.

Final thoughts
I think each of these options are viable, or with more work can be viable in the future. My favourite idea is the redevelopment of ANZ Stadium, but I think each of these options can work with the right infrastructure, finances and support.