Melbourne stadiums set for major upgrades

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Melbourne’s stadiums are set for major upgrades likely to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, in an election-year cash splash by the Andrews Government.

The Herald Sun can reveal the government is in the final stages of sealing a plan to future-proof the city’s stadiums, with a source confirming “exciting announcements” will be made this year.

The AFL is believed to be confident of a $300 million overhaul of Etihad Stadium — including a waterside stadium gateway, events centre and parkland.

But the government is taking a cautious approach to handing over public money to the league, which does not pay any tax, and is keen to avoid the backlash seen in NSW over the government’s $2 billion move to knock down and rebuild two stadiums.

And it is keen to ensure any new stadium spending has broader economic and community benefits.

The AFL, which bought Etihad Stadium for $200 million last year, is offering to make it available for more concerts, events and conferences.
How a revamped Etihad Stadium would look in drawings made for the AFL.

Acting Sports Minister Philip Dalidakis told the Herald Sun: “We know that we need to be continually improving our stadiums if we are to remain as Australia’s sporting capital and keep competing with the great sporting cities of the world.”

The growing popularity of AFLW is a key factor in the plan, with the government considering proposals to expand suburban grounds such as Richmond’s Punt Rd Oval and Carlton’s Ikon Park to cater for bigger crowds.

The stadium strategy was supposed to be released in the middle of last year, but the final decision was held off and it is now likely to form part of May’s election-year Budget.

The AFL had hoped for an announcement before Christmas, but is understood to be confident its Eithad pitch will be successful.

A radical $1 billion transformation of the MCG has also been on the cards for more than 18 months, but it is ­unclear whether that will form part of this year’s government investment.

The MCG wants to build new concourses over Brunton Ave, providing easy access for fans to Richmond station and Melbourne Park, which would also reduce bottlenecks identified as a security risk.

The Melbourne Cricket Club and the government agreed last month to develop a precinct masterplan for future construction works, to report in 2019, which could mean ­decisions on the city’s biggest stadium are delayed.

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