Etihad Stadium $300m revamp plans unveiled
THE AFL’s plans for a $300 million revamp of Etihad Stadium include a new waterside stadium gateway, open-air bars, restaurants, parks and a running track.
A secret AFL proposal handed to the Andrews Government, which has been obtained by the Herald Sun, outlines the massive revamp of the run-down stadium.
AFL chiefs have presented a glossy 32-page document, titled “Docklands Reimagined”, to Premier Daniel Andrews and Sport Minister John Eren.
The league hopes the Etihad overhaul will kill off a rival plan from Collingwood president Eddie McGuire to build a $1 billion new stadium near the MCG.
Under the AFL’s proposal:
$300m would be pumped into rejuvenating Etihad Stadium and the precinct;
THE arena would open out to Harbour Esplanade and a sprawling waterfront entertainment zone;
A RUNNING track would wind its way around the ground, a giant rock climbing wall built, with grassed parkland; and
COMMUNITY yoga classes on the Etihad playing surface are also in the document.
The revamp will not see any increase to the 54,000-seat capacity but the facade and stands will be upgraded once the AFL wrests control of the venue from its private owners.
“Etihad Stadium is tired and run down,” the pitch document concedes.
“It is 16 years old and provides fans an experience for the year 2000 — not 2016 and beyond.
“It’s not fully integrated into the Docklands precinct, Melbourne’s CBD and the waterfront.
“It does not provide a 365-day destination for the Victorian community. The stadium has never truly reached its potential.”
The AFL hints that a revamped Etihad Stadium would be a major vote winner for the government.
“Involvement in this project would ensure the Andrews Government’s legacy as a dynamic, visionary government,” the document says.
“Importantly, this would be achieved for a fraction of the cost of stadium projects in other states.”
McGuire’s rival plan involves the bulldozing and sale of Etihad and construction of a 60,000-seat venue in Melbourne Park.
The AFL will buy Etihad Stadium for just $30 in March 2025 under the
terms of the deal struck by the Kennett government in the 1990s.
Negotiations between the AFL and Etihad’s ownership consortium about an early buyout of the Docklands ground are ongoing.
McGuire is pushing ahead with his rival pitch.
“I’ve had enough encouragement from senior people to continue to roll on with discussions,” McGuire admitted to the Herald Sun on Friday night.
MCLACHLAN HAD TO PLAY CATCH UP … AND QUICK
WHEN Gillon McLachlan strolled into Premier Daniel Andrews’s office in late March, he knew he was behind the eight ball.
Collingwood president Eddie McGuire had jumped the gun on the AFL chief executive two weeks earlier by unveiling his vision for a new $1 billion sports stadium next door to the MCG.
McGuire had worked behind the scenes for more than a year on his Melbourne Park masterplan and already had the ear of the Premier and key Melbourne powerbrokers.
The AFL, too, had been busy preparing its proposal for a $300 million transformation of Etihad Stadium, which it will take ownership of for just $30 in 2025.
A flurry of meetings between the AFL and other government departments and strategists have been held since the McLachlan meeting in March.
McGuire and McLachlan met for lunch at the Lupino Italian restaurant in Little Collins St three days after the Pies boss launched his counter-plan, and are locked in an intriguing power play for government support.
A league pitch document revealed in Saturday’s Herald Sun has been widely distributed in Spring St’s corridors of power as an alternative to McGuire’s bolder, more costly vision for the creation of a “super sporting precinct” in the heart of Melbourne Park.
The Andrews Government, engulfed in a crisis with the CFA, has a big decision to make on the future of Victoria’s sporting infrastructure.
But all sides agree on thing — Etihad Stadium in its present state is tired and falling behind new interstate venues like the revamped Adelaide Oval and the soon-to-be unveiled Perth Stadium.
“Victoria’s status as Australia’s leading sports and entertainment destination is under threat,” the AFL document warned.
“There is a real risk of falling behind and becoming outdated. NSW and WA are spending $2 billion and $1.3 billion respectively on state-of-the-art major venues.
“Not responding to what users want and expect could see Victoria surpassed by other states.”
At an estimated cost of $300 million, the AFL’s plan is far cheaper than McGuire’s.
But McGuire’s supporters argue spending taxpayers’ money on an outdated venue is like “putting lipstick on a pig”.
Major events king Ron Walker, infrastructure supremo Sir Rod Eddington and influential investment banker John Wylie, who built the $450 million MCG Northern Stand, have all been briefed by McGuire.
“The AFL have gone into a fair bit of detail on the rebuild of Etihad Stadium, which is a fair and reasonable position, but we’re looking at an opportunity to bulletproof the AFL, particularly the Victorian-based clubs,” McGuire said.
“It’s an alternative that is bigger than just a footy stadium, it gives us an opportunity to reshape and remodel Melbourne for the next 50 to 100 years.”
Fans of the AFL plan argue a second stadium next door to the MCG would cause chaos for traffic and crowd control.
Etihad’s positioning as the gateway to Melbourne’s west and proximity to Spencer St station was also spruiked as an advantage.
Western Bulldogs president Peter Gordon has backed the AFL plan, despite measly gate returns that have crippled Etihad’s tenant clubs since its opening in 2000.
McGuire has held regular talks with the government, Melbourne Cricket Club, city planners, developers and financiers, and completed three feasibility studies.
But his concept is dependent on the bulldozing of Etihad Stadium, which he believed could be sold to developers and earn the league a payday of more than $1.5 billion.
It’s a scenario McLachlan and the AFL are determined to kill off.