AAMI Park needs to be upgraded to 40,000

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Other (sports related topics)

November 14, 2014

A few weeks ago, AFL and football fans learnt that the AFL had blocked the FFA’s attempt to pre-book oval venues, the MCG and Etihad Stadium, for the A-League grand final on May 17.

There is the chance that Melbourne Victory or Melbourne City host the final, and the AFL has moved early to protect its interests. It is not the first time the FFA had trouble booking venues in Melbourne.

This follows the failed FIFA World Cup bid, where the FFA failed to gain Etihad Stadium as part of the bid book.

Whatever contractual agreements the AFL has with Etihad and the MCG, the FFA need to find a long-term solution for a football venue that can host an A-League grand final in Melbourne.

The one venue that could be considered is AAMI Park.

Built in 2010, AAMI Park is recognised for its bio-frame bubble roof design and for being the first specific rectangular ground in Melbourne.

The venue is home to four teams from three football codes: Melbourne Victory, Melbourne City (football), Melbourne Storm (league) and Melbourne Rebels (rugby).

However, the venue’s capacity is just 30,500. It has been deemed too small to host major events like A-League grand finals, Socceroos games, Wallabies Tests, high profile friendlies and State of Origin matches.

These events in the past have attracted interstate and international visitors to Melbourne and in the process have boosted Victoria’s economy.

2003 Rugby World Cup, group matches and quarter final,$170 million in revenue.

2006 State of Origin, game three, $17.8 million in revenue.

2009 State of Origin, game one, $17.1 million in revenue.

2012 State of Origin, game one, $27 million

2013 Liverpool versus Melbourne Victory, $35 million in revenue.

2013 Lions Tour, $80 million in revenue (across a variety of venues).

When you total those figures up, it comes to a grand total of $346.9 million which far exceeds AAMI Park’s costing of $267.5 million.

Remember, this doesn’t include a State of Origin match in 1994 which attracted over 87,000 at the MCG. There was also the Lions Tour in 2001 or the Bledisloe Cup matches in 1997, 1998, 2007 and 2010.

With Bledisloe Cup matches, in 1997 as an example, 92,000 fans filled the MCG and Victoria benefited to the tune of $61 million.

Of course, bringing those kind of events to Melbourne do come at a price.

Earlier in the year, the Victorian government agreed to stage State of Origin matches at the MCG in 2015 and 2018, forking out more than $2 million per match.

If AAMI Park had a capacity of over 40,000, then here is a list of events that has the potential to sell out the venue, including domestic and international club and representative football matches and domestic and international rugby league and rugby union games.

Rectangular football codes have several future events coming up that could drive Victoria’s economy, particularly as football continues to grow in Australia.

Before the stadium was built, the Victorian state government initially had plans for a 20,000-seat capacity which would then expand to 25,000. Melbourne Victory asked for the stadium to have a capacity of 40,000, arguing that Victory were getting crowds of well over 40,000 at Etihad.

After wrangling and negotiating from both sides, a compromise was reached for the new rectangular stadium to have a capacity of 30,500 and then have foundations in place to expand to 50,000 if needed.

When the FFA were looking for a Melbourne stadium to host larger events, the costs for expanding the stadium were estimated to be in the vicinity of $150 million, due largely to the complexities of the bubble frame roof design.

While the roof may be an attraction in itself, surely the main event has to be on the field? If the stadium can be upgraded to a larger capacity at the expense of the fancy roof, that has to be a win for sports fans and the public in general.

In 2008, Robina, on the Gold Coast, opened a new stadium for the NRL’s Gold Coast Titans with a 27,400 capacity to the cost of $160 million.

Compare that with AAMI Park, it opened in 2010 with a capacity of 30,500 to the tune of $267.5 million. So AAMI Park has an extra 3,100 seats, but costs another $107.5 million.

AAMI Park could’ve been built in a more frugal manner and made less glamourous in architectural design.

If an upgrade is to occur, and the upgrade is expensive, then fans from other sports such as the AFL and cricket shouldn’t be pointing their fingers towards the NRL, the ARU or the FFA.

AAMI Park needs to be upgraded to 40,000 plus before 2025, the year where the AFL takes control of Etihad Stadium.

From that moment, rectangular sports will have no future at Etihad stadium.

In 2025, the AFL may only want Etihad to be an ‘AFL only’ venue – and justifiably so. I don’t think the rectangular codes would want to be at the mercy of the AFL.

I think it’s time that Melbourne, the self-proclaimed sporting capital of the world, has a rectangular stadium that can host major events.

Sure, there will be many occasions where only 10,000 fans turn up in a 40,000 seat venue. However, is it any different to whenever 25,000 turn up to an AFL game at the 100,000 seater MCG?

The squabbles between the AFL and the FFA over Melbourne stadia is becoming very tiresome and boring.

The solution is upgrading AAMI Park, not playing at Etihad.

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