Thursday, April 14, 2016

Baird's Stadium Plan A Huge Win

It appears common sense has finally prevailed in the Sydney Stadium debate, with Mike Baird declaring a $1.6 Billion plan a go-ahead on Thursday afternoon.

The new-look ANZ Stadium to be built as part of Baird's plan.
After a much-publicised and well-touted battle between the powerbrokers – or rather the pawn-manovourers on Sydney’s sporting chessboard – the biggest piece appears to have been played by fed-up NSW Premier, Mike Baird.

Following bungled negotiations by NSW Government Sports Minister, Stuart Ayres, Baird returned to Sydney from an overseas trip to discover the public relations mess on the Government’s hands.

The Premier, who has self-titled himself as the man to get the state going, seems to be doing just that, albeit by the sale of various bits and pieces of the state’s infrastructure.

Forgetting the nuts and bolts, Thursday’s decision can finally be dubbed a ‘win for the fans’. While many will contest that suggestion, those in the decades to come, will be thankful for the decision.

With $700 million set be pumped into an ANZ Stadium overhaul; $350 million on a rebuild at Parramatta; and a $400 million restoration of the old-girl Allianz in Sydney’s East, the framework is finally in place to set-up the future of sport in Sydney for at least the next 30 years.

Crucially, the major proportion of the $1.6 million will go directly to Western Sydney’s foremost arena, ANZ Stadium.

Formerly known as Stadium Australia in its hey-day when it played host to the Summer Olympics in the year 2000, the venue has become void of all proper purpose outside big-time feature events.

While the venue might not be in the ‘heart of the city’, it is geographically best placed to cater for Sydney’s broad population. When considering public transport and private travel, the Olympic Park precinct stands head and shoulders above any inner-city option.

The fans will again be the beneficiaries when you take into account the potential the area has to build match-day entertainment around the venue.

With an increase in content across all three major codes; rugby league, rugby union and football, the Olympic Park precinct has the capability to increase its options in hospitality, experiences and activities for its visitors.

Of some concern are Baird’s words that label ANZ Stadium as a project that will be fast-tracked. While commendable, the window being proposed to build the stadium is from 2019-2022, years away from what fans would consider fast-tracked.

On first-sight this would appear to open up a Pandora’s box of challenges for the NRL with up to five NRL teams currently playing at the venue. However, the three-to-four year construction phase presents enormous opportunities to spread the greatest game of all in what the league’s administration currently considers growth areas.

Queensland have been crying out for a Grand Final ever since they re-built Suncorp Stadium in 2001, Victoria have stepped-up their interest in Rugby League in recent years by hosting State of Origin Matches, and Western Australia is due to open a brand-new 60,000 strong capacity stadium in Perth by 2018.

While the home-ground status quo for the NRL may be disrupted for some years at the end of this decade; the end result, along with the opportunities to take the game’s flagship events to places they’ve never been, should be mind-boggling the code’s administrators with excitement.

It’s sure turned me on. 

In the words of Mike Baird: “The world’s best city, needs the world’s best stadiums.”