Bracks firm on Melbourne stadium plan

Austadiums   |  Wednesday 31st January 2007

Melbourne will get its new hi-tech soccer and rugby league stadium, regardless of whether Melbourne Victory signs up as a tenant.

Premier Steve Bracks said yesterday the $190 million rectangular stadium would go ahead, even if Victory decides to move to Telstra Dome.

In a firm warning to A-League soccer team Victory, Mr Bracks urged the fledgling team to sign up, saying the purpose-built stadium would be going ahead.

"We want them in but we also want to make sure the stadium goes ahead and whatever, I can say, the stadium will go ahead," he said.

Asked if he would build the stadium with or without Victory, Mr Bracks said: "Our preference is to have them because that makes it much better in the future, but we're committed to going ahead."

The Government promised 18 months ago to build the spectacular new stadium at Olympic Park as a home for Victory, Melbourne Storm rugby league team and the Demons AFL team.

All three codes agreed, but Victory now refuses to sign, saying it regularly attracts crowds of 30,000 and the stadium would be too small.

The stand-off has caused months of delays and the final design is still unknown.

The Government is thought to be leaning towards a compromise plan for a stadium with 27,500 seats -- an offer Victory rejects.

Victory, which would not comment to the Herald Sun other than to say negotiations were continuing, is being wooed by cross-town rivals Telstra Dome, which can hold 50,000 spectators.

Asked what Victory's demands were, Mr Bracks said: "We don't quite know yet. We are in negotiations with them and we are urging them to agree to and support what they originally signed on to.

"I assume they are wanting extra seats but we will keep negotiating."

In a further warning shot to Victory last night, a senior Government source told the Herald Sun the Government was extremely frustrated at Victory chairman Geoff Lord's refusal to sign on to the deal.

"No matter how lucrative the sweeteners are that Telstra Dome are throwing at Melbourne Victory we would be very surprised if they turned their backs on a purpose-built stadium for soccer and their Melbourne fan base," the source said.

Storm CEO Brian Waldron welcomed Mr Bracks' promise to go ahead with the stadium.

Football Federation Australia, soccer's peak body, said it supported the construction of a purpose-built stadium in Melbourne.

Ellen Whinnett
Herald Sun

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Melbourne will get its new hi-tech soccer and rugby league stadium, regardless of whether Melbourne Victory signs up as a tenant.
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