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Former Sydney Olympic Park executive calls for abolition of SCG Trust

Former Sydney Olympic Park executive calls for abolition of SCG Trust
December 1, 2018

With NSW opposition leader Michael Daley this week questioning whether a future NSW Labor Government would continue with plans to redevelop Sydney's planned new Moore Park Stadium, former NSW State Sports Centre Trust Director Peter Ross has suggested that the Sydney Cricket and Sportsground Trust should be abolished.

Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, Ross, who has a 20 year background in venue management, pulls apart the SCG Trust’s call for the rebuilding of the Allianz Stadium before calling for the abolition of the influential Trust.

Ross questions the ‘base case’  for the rebuilding, highlighting that, before the venue is demolished, the four reasons for the replacement of the Stadium - a lack of compliance, safety concerns, a maintenance backlog and the quest for greater operational efficiencies – need to be analysed.

He writes:

First, the need for compliance. While the Stadium would most certainly not comply with the current code, compliance is not retrospective. The Building Code of Australia changes every year, but we don’t have to knock down or even upgrade all our houses every year. The annual improvements to the code reflect our continued learning about the things that make our buildings safer or more comfortable. That’s great – but thankfully it doesn’t mean we have to trash our heritage.

In addition, the code is written to guide the design of regular buildings like houses, apartments and offices. Stadiums and theatres are different. If the stairs in a stadium had to comply with the code (even in 1988), the spectators would end up so far from the action they would need binoculars. Special purpose buildings never comply and are therefore ‘deemed to satisfy’ the intent of the code and signed off by the minister of the day, using their discretion, for the benefit of all of us.

Neither must the Stadium comply with the Disability Discrimination Act of 1992. There is nothing to stop the Trust swapping out regular seats for wheelchair spots if the demand is there, but just like the 45% of train stations that don’t meet the standard, compliance is not compulsory in existing buildings.

Safety is also a relative concept. There will always be risks when you bring crowds of people together for an event. Stadium management is all about identifying these risks, prioritising them and implementing strategies to manage the scariest ones. If the concourses and exit doors were wide enough to safely empty the stadium when 40,000 saw the Bulldogs beat the Tigers in 1988, they still are. If people are actually toppling over the non-compliant balustrades, make them higher. If you think there is a big risk of the seats spontaneously igniting, next time they wear out replace them with fire-safe ones. Compared with a $700 million bill to start over, the cost will be immaterial.

The argument that really gets my goat is the maintenance backlog. My guess is that the Trust has postponed the maintenance of the roof sheeting or the beams, confident it will be able to compel the government to fund a new stadium by the time the bits start to fall off. This is just not good enough. If the roof sheets are rusting, replace them. If the beams are starting to corrode through the paint, treat them. Like the Sydney Harbour Bridge, steelwork that receives scheduled maintenance will last for many decades. Having been entrusted with the management of a stadium that cost $68 million to build in 1988, the Trust has a responsibility to use an adequate share of its $95 million annual income to keep it in top condition.

The NSW Government has released an animated flyover of their vision of the new Sydney Football Stadium.

The most expensive components of a new stadium are the larger roof which would increase the number of "dry" seats (which is a nice to have but hardly essential) and the inclusion of a basement ring-road which will improve game day efficiency. Most of the world’s iconic stadiums don’t have either, but still fill up on match days.

The only justification for demolishing a modern stadium is if it were a lousy design in the first place or it was built in the wrong location. That may arguably be a good enough reason to topple the Olympic Stadium, which is universally regarded as a poor venue to watch field sports. But the Sydney Football Stadium seldom needs any more than its 44,000 seats, every one of which gives an intimate view of the football. And the plan is to rebuild the new venue in the hole left by the last one.

So good on you Michael Daley. If you really have the mettle, use this as an opportunity to get rid of the SCG Trust, which has been a thorn in successive government's sides for years. Reaffirm Labor's policy under your predecessor, give the Moore Park venues to Venues NSW as recommended by numerous independent consultants and let it decide how best to spend their limited budget. My guess is it won’t demolish the Sydney Football Stadium.

Click here to read Peter Ross’ full article in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Images: The planned design for the new Allianz Stadium (top) and Peter Ross (below).

Related Articles

30th November 2018 - Western Sydney Stadium to host new World Cup 9s rugby league tournament

12th October 2018 - Cox Architecture announced as winning designer for new Sydney Football Stadium

28th September 2018 - NSW Government urged to delay rebuilding of ANZ Stadium

25th September 2018 - Architect condemns Sydney Football Stadium rebuilding plans

22nd September 2018 - Allianz Stadium set for last ever sporting fixture

12th September 2018 - Leading architectural practice releases proposal for new stadium in the Sydney CBD

6th August 2018 - NSW Government accused of inflating potential fixture numbers to back venues plan

23rd July 2018 - NSW Government looks to increase hosting of major sporting events

6th July 2018 - SCG Trust Chief Executive moves to head Australian Turf Club

12th June 2018 - Redevelopment of Allianz and ANZ Stadiums to deliver ‘negative returns’ on investment

21st May 2018 - UTS takes on naming rights at soon to relocate Allianz Stadium health club

29th April 2018 - Venues NSW Chair issued warning over viability of Sydney stadium redevelopments

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