05 December 2017
Why we need to knock down Allianz Stadium
The bicentenary was a time of optimism. Sydney was alive. The Tall Ships came into the harbour, the RBA released an edgy commemorative $10 polymer note and new public buildings were opening.
Our new Parliament House was a landmark for the nation, built with vision, big enough for population expansion. Other buildings, such as the Macquarie Street wing of the State Library, opened and are still adequate today. Some were not built with the same vision. The Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre, the Monorail and the Sydney Football Stadium all fall into this category.
Remember how the Monorail was promised as the future of transport but it could only go in one direction and often broke down. Remember how cherry pickers rescuing patrons became a regular occurrence? Fortunately, the NSW government decommissioned this eyesore.
Just last week the same government made another bold announcement to fix problems created in the 1980s. This time to knock down a badly dated Sydney Football Stadium and rebuild it into a world-class facility to attract the best major events and give the sporting public a facility they deserve and can be proud of – a place that every young male or female footballer can aspire to play at one day.
The 1988 stadium was built in a different era. Back then it hosted only male players, a time when your average league player was a labourer, a milkman or garbo who played footy on the weekend.
Rugby league was different back then too – when the Illawarra Steelers, North Sydney Bears and Western Suburbs Magpies were part of the NSWRL premiership. And it was an era of expansion, with Newcastle making their return to the comp in 1988 after a 79-year hiatus – joined by the Brisbane Broncos and Gold Coast Giants.
The people who claim the stadium is perfectly fine clearly don't attend the venue. The stadium doesn't meet modern safety standards, the venue is rusted and ageing.
Anyone who was at the Anzac Day match in 2015 when that hailstorm hit knows too well how bad it is. Not only did the roofline mean many patrons were soaked and hit with hail, there was no space to take cover. Even in the supposed sanctuary of undercover areas many couldn't squeeze in and some floors were flooded.
Last week the state government decided to knock down and rebuild Allianz Stadium.
Those leaving down steep stairways felt unsafe as they squeezed out towards Driver Avenue. It's not any easier getting in. Just ask fans who missed the start of the A-League grand finals in 2013 (Wanderers v Mariners) or in May this year (Sydney FC v Melbourne Victory).
The concourses should be three times wider than they are for normal conditions let alone major events. It's not safe for those who need the 28 wheelchair accessible spots who must traverse even narrower pinch points to reach disabled toilets not located near their viewing positions. And for females who like their sport, how about lining up for one of only 48 cubicles in a stadium seating 45,000.
If you want a beer or a pie be prepared for a 20-minute wait, that means missing a quarter of the game.
There are only two change rooms designed solely for men despite the stadium playing host to the Matildas and our Olympic gold-medal winning women's seven's rugby team. I could go on, but all this only scratches the surface.
And before being told that we can just renovate to put in more bathrooms, food outlets and other facilities I can tell you first that there simply isn't room in the current structure and second that the Trust has invested $330 million of its own funds in maintaining the SFS and the SCG over the past 30 years.
Our Trust members don't begrudge spending on schools or hospitals, they are important. But, if the government is spending $200 billion on these in the next few years then surely, it can also afford to build a new stadium to replace one which fails basic safety standards?
From 2014 to 2016, sporting events attracted 300,000 overnight visitors to Sydney and contributed more than $190 million to the local economy.
Together ANZ and Allianz stadiums attracted 3.5 million people a year across 200 events, employing 3650 people directly and supporting a further 5000 jobs. Two new world-class stadiums will create more events, more jobs.
There will always be those people who hate any spend on sporting facilities and prefer to score cheap political points.
Combined the Olympic Stadium and Football Stadium facilitate a contribution of $2 billion in economic impact each year for NSW – and that makes the investment worthwhile.
Written by Tony Shepherd, Chairman of the Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust. Article was originally published in the Sydney Morning Herald.