SANFL executive commissioner Leigh Whicker says the planned AAMI Stadium upgrade will go ahead, despite the State Government deferring most of its future funding for the project.
In June, the South Australian Government pledged $100 million to help bring the 50,000-capacity stadium up to ‘international standard’, but the global economic crisis has seen the bulk of that funding put on hold.
On Monday, Mr Whicker acknowledged the State Government’s decision, but said the initial, up-front $12.6m grant would be put to use immediately.
“While we are grateful for the government's immediate assistance, which will help us develop members' and public facilities within the stadium, the SANFL is continuing with our plans to rejuvenate the home of South Australian football and to make match day access easier,” Mr Whicker said.
The initial $8m of works, including first-stage road works and transport upgrades, would be completed by the end of March next year.
Further upgrades, involving the bus terminal and stadium lighting, would be completed by February 2010.
Some sectors of the South Australian sporting public have called for a new, multi-purpose facility to be built closer to the city.
But Mr Whicker maintained there was ‘no need’ for a new stadium.
“We have a concept, we have a funding model and that’s a lot more than can be said of the proponents of any single, new $1 billion stadium,” he said.
“The SANFL is the only one in town with a plan.”
The proposed redevelopment had been costed at $190 million by independent property and construction consultants Rider Levett Bucknall. It would make the venue FIFA compliant, should Australia be successful in any soccer World Cup bid.
The redevelopment would see 15,000-20,000 spectators brought closer to the playing field as well as an additional 10,000 more people seated undercover.
It will also incorporate two "super" entrances, one to the west to link up with West Lakes Mall and the other to the east to accommodate transport and parking upgrades.
Adelaide CEO Steven Trigg said his club remained ‘totally committed’ to the AAMI Stadium redevelopment.
“It’s also a simple fact that our club enjoys a competitive advantage – in an equalised competition – at AAMI, where we train, prepare and play. Tenants of Etihad Stadium, for example, don’t enjoy the same benefits,” Trigg said.
“We are very clear that AAMI Stadium has been unreasonably and relentlessly criticised by some in recent times. Criticism that’s not balanced.
“Why? The surface is second to none in the competition. Access and egress on match day has been vastly improved. Free buses run in and out, and for those who don’t use them, the culture of tailgate parties is a very real and important part of the culture of our club. Facilities for players are first class. And the seats, AV, food outlets and general amenities have all been upgraded in recent times.”
Port Adelaide CEO Mark Haysman said the planned upgrade was ‘very important’ to his club.
“It is critical we have equal branding (with the Adelaide Football Club) at the stadium and an equal ‘land footprint’ there. The SANFL understand how important this is to our club and our supporters, and the upgrade is the means by which we can achieve this,” Haysman said.
“However, the world is going through a financial crisis, and we see the challenges the State Government, and all levels of Government, are facing, so we understand the need to put it off for now.”