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Etihad chief farewells Docklands

01 Oct 2012

Etihad chief farewells Docklands Image

By Georgina Scambler

In 12 years as chief executive officer of Etihad Stadium, Ian Collins has seen Docklands grow from an open area to a thriving suburb.

So it is with some sadness that Mr Collins said goodbye to Docklands when he retired at the end of September.

Mr Collins said the stadium was the catalyst that kick-started the development of Docklands, but the growth hadn’t progressed as quickly as he would have liked.

“We’ve been operating a venue which attracts about 3 million people a year in a building site,” he said.

“There’s been some pretty aggressive debate at times about some of the construction and closing of roads, basically we [Etihad Stadium] have had to wear all that and are still doing that.”

Mr Collins said that despite excellent public transport, access to Docklands by car was still a concern.

“In the end there are still a lot of people who drive their cars, and I don’t think it’s user-friendly for people to come into the area and park,” he said. “Hopefully that will change; it’s going to get busier as more people come here and more people live here.”

Mr Collins said Docklands would continue to develop its own character, with its proximity to the water making it a highlight of the city.

“I hope things are put on by Melbourne City Council to attract people on a regular basis, whether it be carnivals, fireworks or other things that the general public can enjoy,” he said.

He warned that development should be carefully considered so the suburb didn’t become “a concrete jungle”.

“I don’t think there’s a lot of charm about some of the buildings that are being put up,” Mr Collins said.

He added that Etihad Stadium was being closed out by a lot of the new buildings and this detracted from the stadium’s status as an iconic feature of Melbourne’s skyline.

“You’ll only be able to see it from across the railway lines to the east and across the Bolte Bridge to the west, so I think it does lose a little bit.”

Mr Collins said the input of several organisations including Places Victoria, City of Melbourne and VicRoads meant decision-making about the area surrounding the stadium and Docklands in general was not always easy.

“I think it is improving but it’s still got a fair way to go,” he said.

Mr Collins said the biggest challenge facing new Etihad Stadium CEO Paul Sergeant would be getting to know the people and fitting into the “AFL culture” of Melbourne.

“[AFL] no doubt has a following a bit akin to religion,” he said.

“It’s fortunate that he’s starting on the first of October which gives him a chance to assess the landscape before the next season.”

He said the AFL would be looking closely at how the venue was managed over the next 10 to 12 years before the stadium becomes an AFL-owned venue in March 2025.

His close ties to AFL mean Mr Collins will still be a regular visitor to Docklands after his retirement.

“I’m passionate about the product called AFL football and especially the Carlton Football Club, and they play a lot of games here,” Mr Collins said.

“So I’ll be coming along as a barracker rather than trying to influence what happens in and around the stadium.”

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