Bold Plan to Resolve Sydney Stadium Impasse

by | Sep 15, 2018 | Lloyd Rothwell, News |

Bold Plan to Resolve Sydney Stadium Impasse

In the seemingly never-ending Sydney stadium saga, architectural firm Bates Smart has submitted an unsolicited plan to build a new football stadium on top of Sydney’s Central Station. While it may sound far-fetched, it is perhaps just the solution the people of NSW have been looking for.

Before we explore this idea, let’s take a quick step back in time and remind ourselves of how we arrived at this point. Over the past 10-15 years, a wave of stadium refurbs has been taking place all over the country. To mention just a few, the ‘Gabba in Brisbane completed a $128m redevelopment in 2005, the Adelaide Oval was rebuilt at a cost of $583m in 2014, and the $1.6b Optus Stadium in Perth opened earlier this year. It was in this climate during mid-2015, following much speculation, the then NSW Premier, Mike Baird, announced a $1.6b plan to upgrade three of Sydney’s major sports venues; Parramatta Stadium was to be completely rebuilt, ANZ Stadium would be reconfigured into a permanent rectangular stadium for football, at Allianz Stadium would receive a major facelift. It was argued that Sydney was falling behind and would need to invest in its stadium network in order to continue to secure major events such as the NRL Grand Final and Bledisloe Cup rugby union test matches.

However by 2017, Baird was gone and the state was now under the leadership of Gladys Berijiklian, when it was announced that in fact all three stadiums would be demolished and rebuilt, at a cost of over $2b. Fast-forward to today, and the Western Sydney Stadium at Parramatta will open in approximately six months, Allianz Stadium is set to be torn down early next year, and work will commence on ANZ Stadium (now only receiving a facelift) after the 2019 football season. Meanwhile, there has been a public outcry over the amount of tax-payers dollars being used to build new venues for the use of Australia’s elite professional sports.

This new proposal, however, has the potential to change the game. Currently, Sydney city’s cricket ground and football stadium are located south of the CBD at Moore Park. Direct access to the stadiums has long been tenuous; there is no direct train line to the area and traffic is a nightmare – particularly when both stadiums are in action. The government is building light rail which will connect the precinct to the city and to Kingsford further south, although will still rely on patrons having to transfer from other modes of transit.

So, is it feasible to build a stadium on top of a railway station? Bates Smart certainly think so. In partnership with an engineering firm they equate the weight of a stadium roughly equal to that of a six-story building. The only difference in this proposed build would be, rather than earthworks and excavation taking place, a podium of sorts would need to be constructed, over the top of which the stadium would then be built. There are undoubtedly positives to locating a stadium in the heart of the city; in terms of public transport it is arguably THE place to build, plus of course global Sydney would literally be right on the doorstep. Not only that, once Allianz Stadium is demolished, the land on which it stands could potentially be returned to public parkland.

Despite these upsides, it would seem this idea is unlikely to come to fruition. Firstly, the government is rapidly moving to proceed with the current plan and timeline, mindful a state election is scheduled for March, 2019. In fact next week’s NRL preliminary final between the Sydney Roosters and the winner of the South Sydney vs St George Illawarra game this Saturday is likely to be the last-ever football match at the stadium. However, the final event at Allianz will be a Michael Buble concert scheduled for October 5th. Additionally, Central Station, which was built in 1906, is subject to its own renovation, with close to $1b scheduled to be spent as part of the Sydney Metro upgrade. It’s conceivable this would need to be completely rethought would the stadium plan gain traction. Nevertheless, an interesting idea to ponder!

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