Harbour side snubbed in Marvel Stadium upgrade

Harbour side snubbed in Marvel Stadium upgrade

By David Schout

The $225m upgrade of Marvel Stadium includes no funds to activate the ground’s waterfront side as originally promised.

After plans released late last year showed upgrades to the stadium’s southern and eastern sides, a government source has since confirmed to Docklands News that the government-funded project, in fact, included no money for the Harbour Esplanade-side of the concourse.

This is despite continued government insistence that the upgrade “offered the potential to reposition Docklands as Melbourne’s key waterfront destination”.

It had been hoped an upgraded harbour side of the stadium concourse would create a more lively Docklands area both on match days and during the week.

“I’m excited about opening up this precinct to the water in Melbourne,” AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said in March last year.

But upgrades to the stadium concourse — now more than 20 years old — were focused away from the harbour in November’s announcement, and it now appeared the harbour had been snubbed completely.

Rather than an activated waterfront, plans instead focused on a “signature new town square plaza” that would welcome pedestrians arriving on the Bourke Street footbridge from Southern Cross Station, plus a “city edge” stadium expansion that would refurbish public and function areas that overlook on the Wurundjeri Way side of the ground.

Development Victoria (DV), the government’s development arm which is partnering with the AFL on the project, maintained it would still be a win for the local area.

“The Victorian Government-funded upgrade of Marvel Stadium will transform the space into a seven-day-a-week, open and accessible entertainment hub and offers the potential to reposition Docklands as Melbourne’s key waterfront destination,” group head of precincts Geoff Ward said.

The government itself did not respond to questions from Docklands News.

The news is a blow to Docklands small businesses hoping to attract new clientele with the help of infrastructure upgrades.

The AFL purchased Marvel Stadium (then Etihad Stadium) in 2016 and in a 2018 deal, the Andrews Government committed $225 million to the stadium upgrade.

In return, the AFL committed to hosting the Grand Final at the MCG until at least 2058, quelling strong interest from rival AFL states.

A town planning permit application for the redevelopment has been lodged with the City of Melbourne and, if approved, construction could reportedly start in the middle of 2021.

It’s understood that plans for Harbour Esplanade edge of the stadium are still wrapped up in negotiations with the public and private sectors, with a new functions space rivalling the Crown Palladium still central to the plans.

But plans regarding the future of AFL House are still up in the air, with the proposed move to the NewQuay West site near Ron Barassi Snr Park understood to be “extremely unlikely” to happen •

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