Collingwood’s McGuire leads push to demolish Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium and Hisense Arena for new AFL venue
Television personality and Collingwood FC President Eddie McGuire has announced an ambitious proposal to bulldoze Melbourne's Etihad Stadium and to develop a new $1 billion stadium on the site of the city's Hisense Arena.
McGuire's proposal includes the development of a new 60,000-seat stadium, to be known as the Victoria Stadium, on the site of the Hisense Arena, just across the across the railway lines from the MCG, moving the nearby Richmond railway station underground and the development of a road tunnel to link the precinct to Swan Street and Punt Road.
The $1 billion project, which has gained massive media interest, would be paid for by demolishing Dockland's Etihad Stadium and the AFL selling the site, after 2015, for commercial and residential development.
While resulting in a net loss of venues in the city and reportedly placing Melbourne at risk of losing the Australian Open, the influential Melbourne identity claims his proposal could eliminate all club debt and "bulletproof" AFL.
With Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle having previously suggested that Etihad Stadium should be “bulldozed”, McGuire’s plan would appear to have the backing of key Victorian opinion formers
McGuire said the new stadium would free clubs such as St Kilda, the Western Bulldogs and North Melbourne from their restrictive agreements at Etihad Stadium.
McGuire told radio station Triple M "there would an opportunity for all clubs to eliminate debt and not be reliant on television money, because we don't know where the world of television is going in the next five to 10 years.
"It give us an opportunity to put that money into grassroots football for boys and girls, to maybe even land bank around Melbourne to bulletproof football.
"Another key point of this is that we don't jam the supporters [and] the clubs don't die on the vine to slumlords, which has happened to a number of clubs there (at Etihad Stadium)."
North Melbourne Chairman James Brayshaw last year labelled his club's agreement with Etihad Stadium "the worst stadium deal in the history of world sport".
The Saints have also complained about being forced to cut spending in their football department in previous seasons because of poor match-day returns.
McGuire said a new stadium would not be beholden to shareholders who needed to maximise returns, but "a facility that is world's best for the people".
He added “the idea is to keep it as cheap as possible for supporters … keep it cheap for people to fill it up.”
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has apparently been briefed on the proposal, telling News Corp in a statement that “the MCG, Melbourne and Olympic Park stadiums are the envy of the world, but in a competitive market we can't sit back and let others pass us by.
"I encourage fresh thinking and innovative ideas to enhance our sporting arenas. Eddie is a passionate Victorian with a love of our great game and a vision for our major sporting precinct."
McGuire said he had spent 12 months working on the concept and had held talks with the Victorian Government, Melbourne Cricket Club, city planners, developers and financiers.
The AFL said it supported the Premier's view that Victoria had world-class sporting facilities, but that "we need to invest to ensure that we don't go backwards in an increasingly competitive market".
AFL spokesperson Patrick Keane told AFL.com.au “the AFL is keen to continue to discuss with the Victorian Government the best stadium and infrastructure outcome for the city of Melbourne and the Victorian public.”
Objectors point to the need for a stadium was still required in the west of the city, with Western Bulldogs President Peter Gordon telling SEN “you need to remember that the western region of Melbourne is the fastest growing population base in Australia, and will be for the next 30 years.
"I still prefer the Docklands as a venue.
"It services the people in the west and north-western suburbs of Melbourne, of which my club is one, and its members."
Former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett, who was in power when Etihad Stadium was built, said he believed the proposal was not worth risking the Australian Open.
Kennett stated “(it) is the biggest sporting event in Australia over two weeks that gives us lots of promotion overseas.
"I'm not prepared to put at risk the Australian Open in Melbourne for a new stadium there fundamentally for football in all its various forms."
Professor Michael Buxton from RMIT University said the project would "plunder" Melbourne's much-loved green space.
Professor Buxton told the ABC “given Melbourne's previous track record of building on parkland, there is a reasonable chance it will go into parkland."
He also questioned McGuire's motives, adding "Collingwood Football Club has a very bad record of putting its own interests first in the Swan Street precinct.
"Since they moved into that area they bumped other users down the track, down Swan Street and made a big bid to take over Goshes Paddock, the last large bit of public space in that area.
"Collingwood has a big vested interest in this whole area. The motives and the interests in players in this kind of proposal really need to be very carefully evaluated."
Images (from top): Eddie McGuire's planned Victoria Stadium, Hisense Arena, Etihad Stadium and tennis at Hisense Arena.
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