The AFL is examining plans to upgrade either Princes Park or Punt Road Oval as a boutique 25,000-seat stadium to help ease the financial burden on Victorian clubs hobbled by onerous Etihad Stadium deals.
The Age reported the AFL has had preliminary plans drawn up as part of a feasibility study into both the Carlton and Richmond precincts.
In the Punt Road Oval plans, a footbridge would be built from Richmond train station over Brunton Avenue and Punt Road to the stadium. The attraction of the ground is its proximity to public transport and ease of parking at the MCG - where the AFL would not schedule clashing fixtures. However space to develop the ground is limited due to Punt Road bordering on the eastern wing.
The Princes Park option would be less expensive because there is already capacity for around 15,000 at the ground and it includes some reasonably new facilities. One drawback however is the lack of a nearby train line and parking. The venue was Melbourne’s third AFL venue until 2005 when it hosted its final premiership season game.
North Melbourne's Arden Street Oval has also been floated as an option but is even more remote, in terms of public transport and other infrastructure.
The AFL is set to take over ownership of Etihad Stadium in 2025 and there has been talk of the league buying the venue prior to that date however it’s believed there has been some resistance by the current stadium owners.
The financial situation of some Victorian-based clubs including Western Bulldogs and North Melbourne has forced the league to explore the possibility of a third venue to ease the burden. Currently, these two clubs and St Kilda need to draw upwards of 20,000 to avoid making a loss at Etihad Stadium, and over 30,000 to make some sort of profit.
A new potential venue for Melbourne was raised in 2009, with the so-called E-Gate Stadium planned for the railyards North Melbourne train station and Footscray Road – however not much has been heard of that since.
The proposal was brought up at a meeting of club chiefs in January and is sure to be raised again during the year with the contentious subject of equalisation funding in the media.