There has been a lot of discussion over the future of Sydney’s stadiums following the New South Wales government’s backflip on the ANZ Stadium rebuild.
Reports suggest that the NRL wants four suburban stadium upgrades. These four proposed mini Bankwest Stadiums are planned to hold 20,000 spectators and be located in Manly, Penrith, Campbelltown and southern Sydney.
The potential for improved facilities will have several clubs licking their lips in anticipation, particularly with reports that the NRL is keen to privately own the new venues.
Here is how the NRL could potentially utilise stadium upgrades for the benefit of the nine Sydney clubs.
Brookvale Oval is the suburban venue in most desperate need of an upgrade. Proposals have existed for many years, due to outdated facilities, poor seating and a playing surface that has caused a number of serious injuries over the years.
Replacing the grandstands around the ground are a must, as is replacing the playing surface. To keep some suburban nostalgia, the trees at the southern end of the ground should remain.
Panthers Stadium is in pretty good condition for a suburban ground. It does lack some facilities that are essential for spectator comfort, such as food and bathrooms. It also lacks seating in the grandstand, with most away supporters being forced onto the hill.
The grandstand roofs don’t cover many seats, leaving a lot of spectators exposed to the weather. By extending seating right around the ground, extending the roofs over the seats and improving facilities, you improve the viewing experience for the fans.
Similar to Brookvale, for a bit of suburban nostalgia you could leave one end of the ground open (similar to QCB Stadium in Townsville) with part of the hill remaining.
Campbelltown Stadium normally hosts three NRL games per season. It is also a venue for the lower grades and will host the new A-League team from next season.
The Wests Tigers are a club that has struggled with its identity since being formed as a joint venture in late 1999. They play home games in the inner west, south west and greater west of Sydney, and train somewhere in the middle.
With a shiny new stadium with the same feel as Bankwest, they can permanently base themselves out of one of the fastest growing regions in Australia.
Shark Park is the only venue used by the NRL that is currently owned by a club. The ground is being closed for the next couple of seasons while the adjacent leagues club is being upgraded, so now is a perfect time to improve it.
An upgrade of Shark Park would be similar to one at Penrith, but it would also have the potential to host some Dragons home games.
An alternative to the Shark Park upgrade would be to upgrade WIN Stadium and base the Dragons out of Wollongong full-time, similar to the Tigers at Campbelltown.
Under this plan, the two remaining suburban grounds, Jubilee Oval and Leichhardt Oval, would only be used once or twice per season, similar to the Bulldogs’ usage of Belmore Sports Ground.
The three big venues – ANZ Stadium, Bankwest Stadium and the new Sydney Football Stadium – would remain the home of marquee fixtures. Bankwest would be home to Parramatta and Canterbury, while the SFS would be home to Souths and the Roosters.
ANZ Stadium would be used only for big games, such as Good Friday and Easter Monday, as well as Origins and grand finals.