The Western Bulldogs have unveiled $150 million redevelopment plans to bring back AFL matches to its home base at Whitten Oval.
The club hopes to play premiership season matches against low-drawing interstate opposition such as the Giants and Suns at their Footscray home by 2024.
Plans include boosting the ground’s capacity to 18,000 with increased seating, the demolition and rebuilding of the EJ Whitten Stand, broadcast-quality lighting, an indoor training field and convention centre.
The club hopes the redevelopment will make it a central hub for the AFL’s growing women’s competition.
Bulldogs CEO Ameet Bains revealed to the Herald Sun that state and federal funds as well as the intended sale of the club’s two poker machines venues at Footscray and Dromana will help pay for the rebuild.
“We currently have $1m funding from the State Government to conduct more detailed design,” he said.
A town square-style piazza, public running track and large residential development on crown land at the ground’s Geelong Rd end gifted to the club last year are also detailed.
“Our masterplan reflects the club’s long-term vision of the Whitten Oval precinct as a hub for the west that attracts and connects our community to the football club and gives our club the best chance of success on and off the field,” Bains said.
The club’s immediate focus is to improve the viewing experience for AFLW matches at the venue, including slightly reorientated the playing surface and improving the lighting, which the AFL has committed to investing in. A new video screen was installed at the venue prior to the 2019 AFLW season.
The ground, formerly known as the Western Oval, hosted its last AFL game in August 1997 when 26,704 fans saw the Bulldogs defeat the West Coast Eagles by 18 points.
While all AFL matches in Melbourne are now played at two venues – the MCG and Marvel Stadium – the AFLW competition has seen traditional suburban grounds return to the fold. The Whitten Oval and Victoria Park have been received well, while Arden Street Oval and Moorabbin will see action in 2020.
There has been a push for a third boutique AFL ground in Melbourne with Ikon Park (Princes Park) and Punt Road Oval mentioned in recent years prior to the announcement of Whitten Oval’s plans.