Bracks hopes 50,000-seat lure will net Victory
The foundations of Melbourne's new rectangular stadium will be designed to support a future expansion to at least 50,000 seats -- a concession the Bracks Government hopes will clinch a deal with the Melbourne Victory Football Club.
The State Government yesterday confirmed the new stadium, to be built by Grocon, would be expanded beyond its initial maximum of 25,000 seats, with a guaranteed rise to at least 27,750 seats, and a promise to accommodate 31,500 if the reluctant Victory agrees to commit to the project.
But in a significant development, the stadium's footings and foundations will be altered to cater for 50,000 or more seats. The two longer sides of the Swan Street stadium will be built to allow such an expansion should it be desired.
Described as "future proofing", the safeguard was not in the plans released in April last year, and was only added in recent months as Victory's huge crowds sparked concerns the new stadium would be too small.
Major Projects Minister Theo Theophanous yesterday confirmed the changes, which will lift the stadium cost from about $190 million to $256 million.
"We will be ... making sure that the foundations are strong enough to potentially expand the stadium at a later date," he said.
"It could go to 50,000, a future government could make that decision using the existing foundations we are putting in."
The concession comes despite the Bracks Government resisting the urging of the soccer club to build a stadium with initial seating for 40,000 or 50,000 fans.
The Victory declined to comment yesterday, and is expected to make a statement today about the changes.
The Football Federation of Australia yesterday urged the Victory to accept the Government offer.
Mr Theophanous claimed the club was content with a stadium of 31,500, and that size was no longer a factor in the impasse.
He said the dispute was now a commercial matter, with the Victory seeking a cheaper tenancy deal at the new stadium -- and using as leverage an alternative "bargain basement" offer to relocate permanently to Telstra Dome.
Premier Steve Bracks said he was "reasonably confident" the Victory would sign on now there was an offer to expand to 31,500.
"Why wouldn't they come on board? This makes it bigger and better," Mr Bracks said.
The extra seats promised yesterday would not significantly alter the space-age design of the stadium, and Mr Theophanous rejected suggestions the seats would have restricted views of the playing arena.
He said half of the extra 4000 seats would be "found around the stadium", while the remainder would be added behind the goals for soccer games, but removed for rugby, which needs more space behind the try line.
Work on the stadium will start this year. It is due to be ready for use in late 2009 or early 2010.
The stadium will also be the home for rugby league team Melbourne Storm.