The AFL has submitted plans to the Victorian Government for a $300 million revamp of Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium to revitalise the venue and surrounding area.
Reported by the Herald Sun on Friday, the plans include a new waterside stadium gateway, open-air bars, restaurants, parks and a running track.
The Australian Football League is set to take ownership of the Docklands venue in 2025 or possibly sooner if a deal can be struck with Melbourne Stadiums Limited.
The future of the 16-year-old stadium has been questioned by some, in particular Eddie McGuire who suggested it should be demolished and replaced by another stadium in the Melbourne & Olympic Park Sporting Precinct beside the MCG. Such a proposal would leave Melbourne’s north and west without a centrally-located venue easy to get to.
The AFL’s proposal doesn’t see any increase to Etihad Stadium’s 56,000 capacity but the facade will receive a much-needed revamp including large new screens, while the stands will also be revamped. It’s intended that the arena will be opened up to Harbour Esplanade while community parkland would be incorporated into the western side of the venue. A running track would wrap around the exterior of the venue and there would be spaces for community activities.
Etihad has received a technology upgrade in recent years with a free WiFi network for fans, IPTV system powering 1,600 new high definition screens around the stadium, two new LED super screens, while the stadium’s Medallion Club was refurbished prior to the 2016 AFL season including the installation of brand new seats on level two, of which individual TV screens are currently being rolled-out on premium seats. However spectator facilities haven’t received any major upgrades in recent times, leaving sections of the stadium looking tired.
It’s hoped the AFL proposal will not only bring the stadium to life, but integrate it into the much-maligned Docklands precinct, especially attracting people to the area on non-event days.
The AFL will buy Etihad Stadium for just $30 in March 2025 under the terms of the deal struck by the Kennett government in the 1990s.
Negotiations between the AFL and Etihad’s ownership consortium about an early buyout of the Docklands ground are ongoing.
Etihad Stadium opened in 2000 and was the first oval-shaped venue to feature a retractable roof and four retractable grandstands. While it had its issues in the early days especially with its turf, things have improved and the venue now hosts AFL, cricket, soccer, rugby and concerts. Its record (sports) attendance is 56,771 for the 2013 Wallabies v British & Irish Lions rugby union match.