Artist impression of a stadium at Burswood.
Perth enters big league with $1b stadium to transform sporting culture
By Courtney Trenwith
WA today website
June 28, 2011
Perth's sporting facilities are about to enter the big league.
A $1 billion project to build the nation's third largest and most technologically advanced stadium at Burswood, announced by the government yesterday, is intended to transform the city's sporting culture.
Players have been promised "an extraordinary experience", while fans can expect an entirely new interaction, from the way they travel to the stadium to how they view the game.
The 60,000-seat facility, with the capacity to expand to 70,000, will put Perth in the frontline to participate in international events hosted in Australia, such as the soccer and rugby world cups, while placing it in contention to bid on its own for coups such as the Commonwealth Games and World Athletics Championships.
It may also boost the likelihood of a rugby league team forming in the west.
While AFL will be the centre-point of the new facility, major games of all sporting codes would likely be scheduled there, including the Ashes and 20/20 cricket as well as soccer finals.
Due to open in time for the 2018 AFL season kick-off, the stadium precinct also has the potential to attract hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for the state.
AFL Commission chairman Mike Fitzpatrick said the new Gold Coast stadium proved tens of thousands of people would flock from the eastern states to experience the modern facility.
Premier Colin Barnett confirmed the much anticipated location of the stadium yesterday, choosing Burswood over Subiaco and East Perth because of its potential to re-energise the city's east.
The project will cost $700 million for the stadium - given the working name Perth Stadium - plus $300 million for additional transport infrastructure, and will represent an historical turning point in Perth's sporting culture.
"This is the biggest single investment in sporting and entertainment infrastructure in WA history," Mr Barnett said.
"The stadium, when complete, will be second only in size to the MCG and the Sydney Olympic Stadium and it will be a world-class facility that this state will be proud of. The sporting men and women who will use it, I think they'll find it to be an extraordinary experience and the design, I think, will provide superb facilities for spectators."
A "superb" spectator experience
The stadium will reflect the style of the highly regarded Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, whose seating design is praised for the intimacy it provides more fans.
"It will be tiered on top of itself like a wedding cake, giving very, very close views for the public," Mr Barnett said.
"There will also be a high emphasis on the comfort and facilities for spectators in terms of the seating plan, of seat size, of seats and facilities at the back of the stadium."
Sport and Recreation Minister Terry Waldron said there would be retractable seating, despite problems at Etihad, to allow the field to be redrawn as an oval or rectangle.
The Perth stadium would be the first to feature a lighting system that could dress the arena in the home team's colours.
It has not yet been decided whether Etihad's revolutionary lighting system that simulates sunlight and generates warmth will be adopted.
Unlike Etihad's retractable roof, the Perth stadium will not be covered.
Poor soil quality means there also will not be an underground car park. Drivers will be expected to park in one of the CBD's multi-storey car parks and walk across a purpose-built pedestrian bridge over the Swan River.
But the government expects up to 70 per cent of visitors to use public transport and will build a special events, four-platform train station that will service all of the city's four train lines.
"So it will be a very different environment for going to the football and other events," Mr Barnett said.
West Coast Eagles' and Fremantle Dockers' supporters also will be cheering because the additional 18,000 seats compared to Subiaco's Paterson's Stadium will allow the clubs to address their years-long membership waiting lists.
Thousands more non-members also will be able to attend games, with general admission expanding, and more seats for inter-state rivals.
"There will be seating allocations for visiting teams so we don't just stick them behind the goals at the western end; we'll look after them a bit better," Mr Barnett said.
Concerns the oval will sink
The Burswood location has been criticised for its poor soil quality, which has already caused the WA Tennis Centre to begin to sink.
Only preliminary geo-technical assessments have been carried out at the site, with no drilling.
Mr Barnett said 30-metre pylons would be sunk into the ground to support the stadium, at a cost of $30 million.
He guaranteed it would hold up.
"I assure you it's not going to sink," he said. "We know enough to know there's no risk to the project."
Revitalising East Perth
While the Burswood site presently lacks the bustling entertainment vibe of Subiaco, cafes and bars will be encouraged to establish there as part of the East Perth revitalisation project.
"[The Burswood site] offers the potential over years to come to have a new stadium as the centre-piece of a wider and broader entertainment and sports precinct," Mr Barnett said.
"It is part of a plan to develop Perth as a vibrant capital city."
The stadium will become a focal point for the revitalisation vision, which also includes water front development.
However, the decision to build the stadium at Burswood means the golf course is almost certain to disappear by 2018 and the WA Tennis Centre could be relocated.
The Premier has ruled out seeking funding for the project from James Packer's Crown group, despite the company's neighbouring casino and entertainment complex inevitably benefitting from tens of thousands more visitors to the area, as well as public transport upgrades.
In defending his decision, Mr Barnett said past lessons had taught him not to mix business with government.
The AFL also could avoid forking out funds, despite the glaring benefits it would receive from having another top rate facility.
"We do hope that the AFL will play a role but this is a government-funded project," Mr Barnett said.
However, the federal government, which withdrew its offer of $250 million for a new stadium when Australia lost a bid for the 2022 World Cup, is likely to pitch in - even if only to attract much needed WA votes.
"I would be confident there will be a significant contribution from the federal government," Mr Barnett said.
"You'll probably hear about that in the lead up to the next federal election."
Federal Minister for Sport Mark Arbib said he would continue discussions with the state government.
"I welcome the Western Australian Government's decision to proceed with the new Perth Stadium," he said.
"It is good news for Perth, with greater capacity, and good news for sport providing opportunities for more world class events.
What it means for Subiaco
The new facility will supersede the Subiaco oval, which has been the state's premier sporting facility for decades, generating a unique culture in the western suburb.
The Eagles intend to keep their headquarters there and continue training at the ground, and WAFL and other sporting games are expected to be played at the stadium.
However, the decision not to build the new facility in the existing hub, which was the preferred option of a taskforce set up to investigate options, will draw thousands of people away from the suburb each weekend, potentially impacting on local businesses.
Mr Barnett said building at Burswood would avoid the demolition of 32 private homes and 66 Homeswest properties.
He said there were "years" to deal with potential concerns for businesses, which may, but was unlikely, to lead to compensation.
"We deliberately took a decision for the future,'' Mr Barnett said.
"If you look at it right now, Subiaco is better served by transport, and is better served by entertainment around it. But looking to the future, or for the next decade, the next 50 years, then I'd imagine this whole precinct will be totally different than what it is today.'