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Stadium designs revealed, but scant details on harbour-side plans

By David Schout

A $225 million Marvel Stadium revamp is set to feature a new “town square” and an expanded eastern side to overlook the CBD after plans were finally revealed in November. But what’s in it for Harbour Esplanade?

The upgrades, revealed by the state government and stadium owner the AFL, will look to transform the area from a match-day precinct into a “seven-day-a-week community meeting place”.

However, it is still unclear how the government and league will redevelop the harbour-side area of the stadium concourse, despite a previous pledge by league chief Gillon McLachlan of “opening it up to the water”.

The designs by architects Grimshaw with Smartform feature a revitalised southern and eastern entry points to the precinct, but little detail on the western — or Harbour Esplanade side — of the stadium.

Both the government and AFL however remained confident the new town square, which they termed the “signature” aspect of the revamp, would play a strong role in changing the stadium’s dynamics.

The square, which would welcome pedestrians arriving on the Bourke St footbridge from Southern Cross Station, would see parts of the stadium walls removed to provide a visual connection to the field of play.

“Markets and community gatherings will fit naturally in the space while hospitality businesses on two levels will be open to the public and able to be converted to ticketed areas for AFL matches and concerts,” the government’s announcement read.

Along the stadium’s eastern side, a “City Edge” stadium extension would refurbish public and function areas and provide views overlooking Wurundjeri Way and back towards the CBD.

Development Victoria, which is jointly managing the stadium redevelopment with the AFL and Sport and Recreation Victoria, did not comment on plans for the harbour side of the ground when asked by Docklands News.

Group Head of Precincts Geoff Ward simply said the revamp “offered the potential to reposition Docklands as Melbourne’s key waterfront destination”.

Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events Martin Pakula maintained the upgrades — announced 20 years on from the stadium’s opening — would be a win for locals.

“This project will turn Marvel Stadium into a true community asset — a fantastic place to watch the footy or catch a big act but also a place to gather and enjoy being part of Melbourne,” he said.

“It’s a win for sports fans, for people who will come to the precinct to meet family and friends and for the hundreds of workers who will draw a wage working on another major stimulus project for Victoria.”

The AFL purchased Marvel Stadium (then Etihad Stadium) in 2016, and earlier this year the asset proved a crucial safety net when securing a reported $500 to 600 million assistance package from the banks to help it navigate through the COVID-19 downturn.

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.

The uncertainty around the Harbour Esplanade edge of the stadium’s upgrades plans could be linked to a reported move of AFL House to land at NewQuay in Docklands near Ron Barassi Senior Park, which was believed to be floated as part of the deal with the state government.

McLachlan thanked the government for its “continued partnership”.

“By renovating the existing Marvel Stadium structure, it will provide a more environmentally sustainable way of building as well as ensuring minimal disruption to fans,” he said.

Inside the stadium itself, the designs include plans for renovated food and beverage areas, new video display boards and other technology upgrades that will “further enhance the stadium experience”.

Players will also benefit from change room upgrades.

A town planning permit application for the redevelopment is “shortly” due to be lodged with the City of Melbourne and, if approved, construction could start in the middle of 2021.

Balance

Balance

May 4th, 2022 - Abby Crawford
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