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

Ryan Eckford Roar Pro

By Ryan Eckford, Ryan Eckford is a Roar Pro

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    ANZ Stadium is set for a major facelift, while the rebuild of Allianz Stadium has been set aside. (Image: ANZ Stadium)

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    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    “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.

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    The Crowd Says (58)

    • December 5th 2014 @ 4:58am
      kevin dustby said | December 5th 2014 @ 4:58am | ! Report

      cool, a new topic to debate. the chances of that happening to Brookvale are 1000-1

    • December 5th 2014 @ 5:37am
      Ahmed said | December 5th 2014 @ 5:37am | ! Report

      We need to fit cricket in there somehow.
      An oval stadium needs to be constructed in the west to accomodate our most popular national team, and also the big bash, and perhaps even the giants.

      • December 5th 2014 @ 6:37am
        melbourneterrace said | December 5th 2014 @ 6:37am | ! Report

        Cricket has the SCG and the Showground, both have been recently upgraded and both are adequate for all AFL and Cricket fixtures.. No more Oval grounds need or should be built in Sydney.

        • December 5th 2014 @ 6:53am
          Christo the Daddyo said | December 5th 2014 @ 6:53am | ! Report

          Actually there are even more than that. Add North Sydney Oval, Drummoyne Oval and Blacktown International Sportspark to that list.

          Plenty of options available.

          • December 5th 2014 @ 2:02pm
            spruce moose said | December 5th 2014 @ 2:02pm | ! Report

            Take Drummoyne Oval off the list. Nice ground, nice place….bugger all hard to get to though.

            I ain’t going on Victoria Rd at the best of times, and the ferry stop is too far from the oval to be considered a viable option.

            • December 5th 2014 @ 4:15pm
              Christo the Daddyo said | December 5th 2014 @ 4:15pm | ! Report

              Drummoyne Wharf is 15-20mins walk away. But I do agree that Victoria Rd is a nightmare.

    • December 5th 2014 @ 6:54am
      melbourneterrace said | December 5th 2014 @ 6:54am | ! Report

      “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.”

      Well that’s just a complete waste of money. The lighting thing is the definition of pig on a lipstick and the free wifi and food to your seat is ridiculous. You’re going to the football, to watch the football. That’s the only experience that needs upgrading and would happen through fixing the stands. Why are we throwing away money so fat blokes can stuff their faces with junk food without moving all upgrade their instagram status. We’re turning into bloody Americans.

      I agree that ANZ Stadium needs an upgrade as Australia needs a quality national stadium to attract big events but this is not the way to do it. The problem with this proposed upgrade of ANZ stadium and the reason I don’t support it is because it spends a lot of money on pointless crap and little on the real issue people have with the ground which is being too far from the action. The actual stands might be able to move closer to the pitch but the shallow incline of the stands has always been the main problem with people having difficulty seeing the far side of the pitch when they’re close and can’t see anything when they are further back. The upper levels are also going to be just as bad as they are now. ANZ stadium needs a total refit like Eastlands in Manchester so it becomes permanently rectangular and a quality viewing experience. They’d be better off bulldozing parts of the stadium at this rate.

      Parramatta Stadium should be first of the rank when it comes to upgrades. NRL, let alone West Sydney need a quality stadium in the region and both it’s current tenants have outgrown it. 35k with option to go to 40k with safe standing implemented behind the goals. That’s big enough for both teams and could even potentially bid for Kangaroos or Socceroos games.

      SFS also is a big dump as well and houses far more regular events than ANZ stadium. It has the same issue as ANZ in that the stands are too shallow and the roof is not good enough.

      • Roar Guru

        December 5th 2014 @ 8:57am
        no show said | December 5th 2014 @ 8:57am | ! Report

        ” pig on a lipstick ”

        I’d like to see that!

        • December 5th 2014 @ 1:06pm
          melbourneterrace said | December 5th 2014 @ 1:06pm | ! Report

          Geez that’s a shocker

      • December 5th 2014 @ 9:13am
        Worlds Biggest said | December 5th 2014 @ 9:13am | ! Report

        SFS hosts about 35 regular events annually whereas ANZ hosts up to 40 annually.

    • December 5th 2014 @ 8:10am
      AR said | December 5th 2014 @ 8:10am | ! Report

      While its good to have all the options “on the table” (in one article), this discussion is a bit pointless without some basic cost analysis, so people can weigh up whether one is better value than the other. It’s likely that the funding models for each will be based 100% on the Fed/NSW Govts, so each is a taxpayer spend.

      The way the article reads, one would think there’s just a bottomless pit of government money for shiny new stadiums everywhere, with the author declaring at the end: “I think each of these options are viable, or with more work can be viable in the future.” It’s a strangely hollow claim.

      Anyway, for what it’s worth, I think the choice is likely to be between ANZ or SFS, with the NRL apparently throwing its support behind a new Moore Park precinct. Right now, I’d probably go for ANZ because an increased SFS would make ANZ redundant pretty quickly. That said, I’m unconvinced that the “build it and they will come” model, works in Sydney.

      As for out west, Parra already has $30M in govt money waiting to be spent. Whether the Wanderers push to Blacktown, I’m not so sure, but I think any rational person would disagree with $300M of public money being spent on a stadium for one privately-owned club. It’s a tricky bit of planning, and the more private investment the better, including contributions from stakeholder sporting bodies.

      • December 5th 2014 @ 9:50am
        AZ_RBB said | December 5th 2014 @ 9:50am | ! Report

        “As for out west, Parra already has $30M in govt money waiting to be spent.”

        No longer waiting. Work started last month on adding 4k seats. Should be ready in time for the 15/16 A-League season. That’ll keep me happy for a little while.

        • December 5th 2014 @ 12:46pm
          AR said | December 5th 2014 @ 12:46pm | ! Report

          That’s great to hear.

          Question for you AZ: Would you rather the Wanderers remain at Parra, with incremental upgrades over a 15 year period…or be relocated to a modern 35k+ stadium at Blacktown as the primary tenant?

          • December 5th 2014 @ 5:17pm
            ciudadmarron said | December 5th 2014 @ 5:17pm | ! Report

            From memory AZ is from B’Town, I’d be interested on his thoughts also.
            For mine, I think it would be great and I wouldn’t complain. But I would prefer to remain at Parra because of the neighbourhood and what is there and how that is on gameday, even if it meant incremental upgrades (which, just quietly, is all we need at this stage and will help in keeping the demand stimulated while letting more people in). Not that blacktown town centre has quite the same ambience of parra anyway, but the Blacktown proposal was not near that anyway and would require an even bigger effort that what is needed at homebush to give the surrounding areas facilities that would cater for a gameday crowd suitably.

            • December 6th 2014 @ 8:27am
              AR said | December 6th 2014 @ 8:27am | ! Report


    • December 5th 2014 @ 9:00am
      Sunshine said | December 5th 2014 @ 9:00am | ! Report

      I would love to see a 40k stadia built in the barangaroo precinct

    • December 5th 2014 @ 9:09am
      Worlds Biggest said | December 5th 2014 @ 9:09am | ! Report

      Good piece Ryan, totally agree with you regarding ANZ Stadium, the plans look incredible. It is already a world class venue however this redevelopment will put it at the forefront around the World. Regarding the proposed redevelopment of Allianz, I just can’t see how they can increase capacity. It is a highly built up residential area at one end. Sydney IMO doesn’t need two venues with a 60 k plus capacity. As for David Smiths desire to make Allianz the home of Rugby League, it just shows how out of touch he is with the game in particular the fans.

      ANZ Stadium is located geographically right smack bang in the middle of Sydney. The City’s west and greater west / south west is a rugby league heartland with a population of over 2 million people. David Smith wants to make it harder / more expensive for the fans to attend games with his backing of Allianz. It is absolutely ridiculous logic.

      Anyway very excited about the plans for ANZ Stadium.

      • December 5th 2014 @ 9:52am
        Someguy said | December 5th 2014 @ 9:52am | ! Report

        I think Smith backed the Western Sydney Parramatta/new stadium development and the Allianz redevelopment for good reason. It gives Sydney two great rectangle stadiums in two prime locations rather than one stadium that’s suitable for no one, location & configuration wise.

        • December 5th 2014 @ 10:14am
          melbourneterrace said | December 5th 2014 @ 10:14am | ! Report

          This. Smith has picked both and wants the money spread over both sides of sydney in two stadiums that the public like attending. Far better option than backing the much hated ANZ stadium

        • December 5th 2014 @ 10:46am
          Worlds Biggest said | December 5th 2014 @ 10:46am | ! Report

          Suitable for no one according to whom exactly ??

          Location you say, how much more centrally located does it need to be ? It is the only regular NRL venue with direct train access. There is over 10,000 car parking spaces available, regular bus services and you can even get the ferry. No other NRL venue can remotely come close to offering this kind of easy access. There is very little parking at Pirtek and it’s a good 15 -20 minute walk from the Station.

          If you read the plans again you will note both ends will be movable, this already exists with the East and West stands. Therefor the configuration will be as good as any venue for NRL club games.

          • December 5th 2014 @ 11:27am
            melbourneterrace said | December 5th 2014 @ 11:27am | ! Report

            “If you read the plans again you will note both ends will be movable, this already exists with the East and West stands. Therefor the configuration will be as good as any venue for NRL club games.”

            Bollocks, the stands might be moveable, but the view will hardly be any better because the incline is so low. It’ll still be just as bad for everyone more than 10 seats back

            • December 5th 2014 @ 1:54pm
              Worlds Biggest said | December 5th 2014 @ 1:54pm | ! Report

              You obviously don’t get out there very often, if you did and sit in levels 1 & 2 both sides then you would know your in great seats. The stands slide forward 15 metres. The same model will apply to the north and south terraces. It will make for better viewing around and atmosphere.

              • December 5th 2014 @ 8:12pm
                melbourneterrace said | December 5th 2014 @ 8:12pm | ! Report

                I’ve been there heaps and i will never go again unless it’s an absolutely huge game. You’ve clearly never been to a good stadium if you think ANZ has any Great seats. It’s utterly dreadful compared to Suncorp or AAMI Park and overseas stadiums of similar size like Westfalonstadion, Allianz Arena, the Bernabeu and Old Trafford (which is not great to start with)

          • December 5th 2014 @ 11:47am
            Someguy said | December 5th 2014 @ 11:47am | ! Report

            It’s definitely central thus making it equal travel distance for residents in the east and west each region but that doesn’t make it suitable. It just means that you’re inconveniencing fans from both regions. Stadiums centralized for the east and west, instead of the whole of Sydney, would service the majority of fans far better than ANZ.

            The only situation where fans would be worse off is if a team like the Rabbitohs go to Allianz and any of their fans in West Sydney now have to travel further.

            Regarding the config, the lower bowl (holds only half the total seats I think) is moveable but I don’t think that helps the upper tiers, which will still be miles away.

            ANZ truly is the jack of all trades, master of none stadium:

            – Located in central Sydney to try and and get fans from all regions, fans from every region hate going there.
            – Is a multiple purpose stadium so that all sports can be played there, no sport wants to actually play there. There’s a reason why ANZ have to pay teams to be tenants….

            It reminds me of the old Waverly stadium in Victoria and we all know what happened to that. I definitely wouldn’t knock it down but I would only use it for the big events that will pushing 70k+.

            • December 5th 2014 @ 2:14pm
              Worlds Biggest said | December 5th 2014 @ 2:14pm | ! Report

              More generalisation here, you seem to speak on behalf of all league fans regarding yours and everyone’s supposed hatred for the venue. Large Stadiums paying Clubs to become tenants is common practice. No sports want to actually play there ? Again more generalisation, take it you didn’t attend the Super 15 Final and NRL Grand Final.

              • December 5th 2014 @ 2:45pm
                Someguy said | December 5th 2014 @ 2:45pm | ! Report

                It might be generalizing but you can’t deny that whenever the topic of ANZ comes up the negative comments always outweigh the positive. Case in point, this thread where there’s only a couple of positive comments.

                I did say that ANZ is suitable for big events like the Super 15 and NRL finals because those are events that Sydneysiders will go out of their way to attend.

                To be honest no matter what happens with the Stadium strategy, unless there’s also a cultural shift then crowds will remain average. Sydneysiders (besides maybe Swan fans?) just aren’t passionate about attending live sport unless it’s hyped up in the media.

      • December 5th 2014 @ 10:13am
        Christo the Daddyo said | December 5th 2014 @ 10:13am | ! Report

        With the Swans announcement that they’re ditching ANZ, the “incredible” plans are now an utter waste of money. There is now zero need for retractable seating.

        In some ways the Swans decision makes the situation clearer – there is now the opportunity to put forward Olympic Park as a dedicated rectangular stadium. Maybe it would be cheaper and easier to rebuild the whole thing from scratch?

        If money was no object I’d rebuild Allianz into a 35k capacity stadium, rebuild ANZ into a good 70k rectangular stadium and rebuild Pirtek into a good 30-35k seater.

        I can’t see the need for bigger capacities than these.

        Oval sports are well catered with by the SCG (approx 50k), Spotless at 25k and Blacktown at 10k. Plus all the other suburban options like North Sydney Oval, Drummoyne Oval, etc

        • December 5th 2014 @ 10:32am
          Worlds Biggest said | December 5th 2014 @ 10:32am | ! Report

          With the Swans leaving there is an opportunity for the Giants to play there marquee games at ANZ. By then they could be a good outfit.
          Why should ANZ restrict itself to rectangular sports only ?

          • December 5th 2014 @ 11:31am
            melbourneterrace said | December 5th 2014 @ 11:31am | ! Report

            Because 3/4 football codes in Sydney and Australia play on rectangular grounds. Because Cricket and AFL have multiple venues in both Sydney and Australia and have had major upgrades to them recently. Because Giants and Marquee games don’t exist, they got 17k to a derby at a ground that holds 25k.

            Cricket and AFL have no need to play there and Football, Rugby League and Rugby Union deserve a premier venue in Sydney that is exclusive for their use.

          • December 5th 2014 @ 11:56am
            Christo the Daddyo said | December 5th 2014 @ 11:56am | ! Report

            I’m sure the Giants will be a great outfit in the next 2-3 years. I can’t see them needing a stadium any bigger than Spotless for the foreseeable future. Tickets to home games against the Swans might be hard to come by in a few years, but so what? Even the Swans’ crowds at ANZ are barely half of ANZ’s capacity.

            If at some point in the future the Giants are pulling such great crowds that they’re regularly selling out Spotless Stadium, they should look to increase the capacity of that stadium. But I bet they won’t…

          • December 5th 2014 @ 2:07pm
            spruce moose said | December 5th 2014 @ 2:07pm | ! Report

            It should restrict itself to a rectangular fit out so it can offer a greater range of premium services.

            A properly configured rectangular stadium makes it a premium package for league, international union, marquee Super rugby, the A-league darby, socceroos etc.

            Making it retractible makes it a poor option for all codes. Cricket is rubbish there. AFL wings are too narrow (not to mention you don’t have 100% viewing of the whole stadium…in the members sections! League, soccer and union the spectators are too far.

            The current set out is only adequate for all and is treated with derision by all. Why go there when the product is terrible?

            But making it properly rectangular and worth while to attend will ultimately bring more people, even at the expense of two codes.

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