Build it and they will come. The New South Wales government thinks this to be true – so much, in fact, that they are spending a minimum of $2.3 billion of public money in achieving their aim.
The NSW government feel that having three elite stadiums – Homebush, Parramatta and the Sydney Football Stadium – will enhance the economy of the state. However, even blind Freddy can see this is foolish.
Before you howl in protest and scream that rugby league needs purpose-built stadiums, know that I do not disagree with you. Having purpose-built stadiums that can be home to three major sports makes sense. I am, like you, tired of seeing AFL ovals pop up around New South Wales and Queensland with no-one playing on them.
I am just saying the locations, the size of the stadiums and at that cost is wrong.
Think of it like this: the government is knocking down the Stadium Australia at Homebush, which is only 20 years into its lifecycle, and replacing it with one of almost equal capacity. At the same time, they are knocking down the SFS in the eastern suburbs that rarely, if ever, sells out and replacing it with a stadium of equal size.
Further to this, Parramatta Stadium is also under construction and will hold 30,000 people, but this venue is within half an hour of Homebush. All of this will cost at least $2.3 billion.
The NSW government thinking is entirely wrong. The SFS does not need to be a 45,000-seat stadium. When was the last time it sold out? Even if we take into account population growth, a 30,000-seat stadium at most is all that is required here.
To have an elite stadium in the heart of Sydney makes sense and reconfiguring Stadium Australia to make it a genuine rectangular field is a good idea, but why spend $200 to $300 million on a 30,000-seat stadium half an hour away? Wouldn’t it just make sense to have that team play out of the Stadium Australia?
Maybe I am just blinded by the waste of money.
Don’t get me wrong – the new Parramatta Stadium will be a great place to watch footy, be it football, rugby league or rugby union. Maybe the smaller stadiums are what Sydney should be going for. A stadium of roughly 25,000 seats in the east, the south, the far west and on the northern beaches along with the Stadium Australia may have been money better spent.
Another way to go could have been to spend the money on rectangular grounds all over country New South Wales. This option would at least provide more people with quality playing surfaces to play their junior and senior rugby league, rugby union or football.
Naturally, I could list all the social services, transport and community bodies that are crying out for money as well, but that list would be too long for this post.
All I am trying to say is that $2.3 billion could have been better spent, and despite this deal providing rugby league fans with world-class stadiums, we should call this spending decision for what it truly is: madness.