The status of Etihad Stadium in Melbourne would appear to have seldom been as precarious as in recent weeks.
In the sports mad Victorian capital, where media need endless sports-focussed exclusives, Etihad Stadium is under scrutiny like no other venue in the world.
Seldom does a week go by without close attention being paid to the landmark venue: of its ticket prices, playing surface, F&B value, AFL clubs’ matchday returns or any type of fan-related incident.
Yet over the past fortnight, the stakes have been raised with Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle predicting that the venue will be gone in 20 years' time.
Speaking at a forum into the future of Melbourne, Lord Mayor Doyle stated that the 15-year-old stadium cuts off the entire Docklands region from the central business district.
The forum, which was broadcast on radio station 3AW, was discussing how Melbourne might look in 2035.
Lord Mayor Doyle’s contribution was to state "in the time-frame you're talking, Etihad Stadium will disappear ... it will be bulldozed.
"It's a great idea for another stadium close to the city, but I would have thought that's one of the things that cuts off Docklands from the city.
Overlooking Etihad Stadium’s role in the regeneration of the Docklands since its opening in 2000, Lord Mayor Doyle suggested that the venue be replaced by a new football stadium at Western Park, located in the Docklands area at the end of the New Quay precinct.
He stated “there is room down there to put an AFL-sized ground and it doesn't block off the city from Docklands.”
Replacing Waverley Park in Melbourne’s Eastern Suburbs, Etihad Stadium opened in 2000 with the AFL as the anchor tenant and is also used for football, the rugby codes and cricket, as well as concerts and a growing number of special events.
Owned by a group of superannuation funds it is due to revert to AFL ownership in March 2025 – although the AFL, with its administration located in the Stadium, is apparently keen to bring forward its acquisition of the venue.
Reportedly, the AFL wants control of the venue so it can be in charge of its lucrative management rights and ensure better matchday returns for its primary tenant clubs – Essendon, North Melbourne, Carlton, St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs.
Immediately after Lord Mayor Doyle’s prediction, News Ltd publications published headlines of ‘How AFL would look without Etihad Stadium’, looking forward to the demise of the venue.
That a stadium can have a life of less than 40 years, as also appears to be the case with Sydney’s Allianz Stadium and Qantas Credit Union Arena, seems to be born of those who influence decisions not necessarily having any type of financial commitment to the venues and being all-too-familiar with Governments handing out funds for the development of stadia.
In Melbourne, the venerable MCG, with its establishment connections, is untouchable, which leaves the Etihad Stadium in its unenviable position of near-constant criticism and scrutiny.
That it is controlled by a funds manager and run by a non Melburnian, and a Briton to boot! (Etihad Stadium Chief Executive Paul Sergeant is also frequently the target of personal criticism), seems to make the venue fair game.
Click here to read Bulldozed: What the AFL would look like without Etihad Stadium in the Herald Sun - 12th November 2015
Click here to read Etihad Stadium will be gone in 20 years: Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle in The Age - 11th November 2015
Images: Etihad Stadium which "cuts off Docklands from the city" according to Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle (top), the Foo Fighters (middle) and UFC193 (below) at the venue.
Article amended 24th May 2015.
16th November 2015 - UFC193 event delivers record $9.5 million ticket sales at Etihad Stadium
2nd September 2015 - Etihad Stadium looks to boost revenues from increased branding
29th July 2015 - Western Bulldogs President calls for new mid-capacity AFL Stadium in Melbourne
17th April 2015 - Etihad Stadium artificial turf blamed for injury to AFL star
Asking a small favour
We hope that you value the news that we publish so while you're here can we ask for your support?
The news we publish at www.ausleisure.com.au is independent, credible (we hope) and free for you to access, with no pay walls and no annoying pop-up ads.
However, as an independent publisher, can we ask for you to support us by subscribing to the printed Australasian Leisure Management magazine - if you don't already do so.
Published bi-monthly since 1997, the printed Australasian Leisure Management differs from this website in that it publishes longer, in-depth and analytical features covering aquatics, attractions, entertainment, events, fitness, parks, recreation, sport, tourism and venues management.
Subscriptions cost just $90 a year.
Click here to subscribe.