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Has time run out for suburban stadiums?

The Bulldogs 2017 season is began at Belmore. (Photo: AAP)
Roar Pro
18th July, 2015
152
2635 Reads

What will the government’s $600-million central stadium strategy mean for your club?

Once an agreement is reached with ANZ’s private owners, pent up changes can be unlocked across Sydney’s ageing stadia.

Parramatta’s capacity cap will be lifted. Moore Park’s hospitality cap will go. And suburban stadia will be harder pressed then ever to compete

Earlier this year, we looked at the challenges facing the NRL’s local grounds. Before the season is even out, we’re seeing clear winners and losers emerge.

Eels
It’s nothing but blue sky for Pirtek stadium. A $29-million, 24,000-seat redevelopment is on hold only because it may be surpassed by a larger 35,000-seat option.

Surrounded by over $2billion in city redevelopment projects (including light rail) Parramatta is though to have edged out rival submissions from Penrith and Liverpool as their preferred western Sydney venue.

For the Wanders, it can’t come soon enough. “This delay in increasing capacity at Pirtek Stadium significantly affects our ability to grow” confirmed chief executive, John Tsatsimas to The Advertiser’s Warren Thomson. “Last season we exhausted our ticket allocation for 10 of our 13 A-League matches”. Over 30,000 members are already forecast if the stadium can accommodate them.

Sea Eagles
Manly CEO Joe Kelly has revealed their 14,881 home game crowd against Cronulla just broke even. Season losses will blow out from $1.5M to over $2.5M after a troubled start to the year.

Speaking to the Manly Daily, Scott Penn concedes “on a number of games we are not even covering the hiring fee”. “We know that playing inside ‘the fortress’ is what we want”, but, “we have to go back to the drawing board in terms of our agreement with council”.

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Manly withheld payments from Warringah council in April as a result of further disputes over the playing surface and maintenance costs. Talks are continuing.

News worsened for the club when redevelopment plans for the current grounds were rejected earlier this year. This is crucial, because Scott Penn has sold the club grounds to GWS holdings. They must relocate, or feature in a new club or stadium development by 2019.

$20M in current funding commitments will deliver little more than an Eastern stand and infrastructure improvements for the NRL’s Eagles, A-League’s Mariners and NRC Rays.

Cowboys
Townsville’s new stadium project has slipped to 2021, and faces a continuing budget shortfall. While Labor’s upholding a $100-million state election commitment, former CEO Peter conceded federal funding will be required to meet the $200M stadium cost (which rises to over $300M with associated transport interchanges and redevelopment).

Tigers
Clouds continue to gather over Leichhardt Oval after former CEO Grant Meyer handed stadium rights back over to the council. Losses, previously estimated between $70 and $100K per game, are reportedly climbing. Just 8267 attended their clash with the Cowboys earlier this season.

With the Tigers struggling to regain voting rights, the imposition of independent Directors, a resurgent Magpies faction, and another defeat for the ‘vertical village’ redevelopment in Rozelle, time is almost out for this venue.

St George Illawarra
Despite massive federal funding in recent years, St George’s council owned Kogarah Oval remains on a knife’s edge. Fairfax press cite home game losses over $124K at Kogarah and $96 at WIN.

Up to five games a season will already be shifted to other venues. Just as Manly are dangerously dependent on the Penn family, St George’s future is now heavily intertwined with benefactors like WIN’s Bruce Gordon.

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Roosters
The 2013 premiers are another big winner. Hospitality at the SFS had been artificially capped under the ANZ trust agreement, but looks set to lift.

That’s right, the code’s best backed team can look forward to even more corporate engagement. Redevelopment is a certainty, even if an all-new 65,000 seat venue is now considered less likely.

With a four-year agreement already in place to take matches to the Central Coast, the Roosters are in talks to transfer additional games during any SFS redevelopment.

Bears
The Central Coast’s Bluetongue Stadium continues to seek additional NRL fixtures, but simply cannot compete with ANZ guarantees said to be between $100 and $150K per game. With Perth and a fourth Queensland franchise most favoured for expansion, a Bears relaunch has never been further away.

While Manly confirmed a match at Bluetongue this season for example, it’s significant they effectively auctioned another to Albury.

Bulldogs
The Bulldogs’ return to Belmore after a 17-year gap was not quite the suburban triumph it first seemed. While 16,764 was the biggest Monday night crowd of the year, it’s far below their 22K average.

“There’s not too many games you get to run out in front of 16,500 people and it sounds like 40,000” enthused Aiden Tolman to the NRL’s Chris Kennedy. While it did showcase how local grounds can engage members, even this has trade-offs with the grounds limited hospitality and corporate facilities.

With the state governments’ $600-million announcement immanent, suburban grounds face a more uncertain future than even before.

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How will your club be affected?