New 60,000-seat stadium proposed in Melbourne’s sports precinct

Melbourne, March 9 (IANS) Melbourne’s world famous sports precinct could be dramatically restructured to include a new $740 million stadium under a new proposal.

The new sporting complex, “Victoria Stadium”, would hold up to 60,000 spectators and will be built alongside the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), within the bounds of the Melbourne Park tennis complex, home of the Australian Open, reports Xinhua.

Victoria Stadium would become Melbourne’s second home for the Australian Football League (AFL), replacing the derelict 53,000-seat Etihad Stadium in Docklands.

Similar to Etihad Stadium, which will be handed back to the AFL in 2025 for just 30 Australian dollars, the new facility would feature a retractable roof.

“The talks are serious — and it gives us an opportunity to decide what the next plan is for our city,” Eddie McGuire, president of the AFL’s biggest club Collingwood and the brain behind the programme, told News Corp on Wednesday.

Reports in the media have suggested that the Victorian government has not received a formal proposal from McGuire yet, but has been briefed on the idea.

Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews said he was open to any plan to improve the city’s stadia for sports fans.

“The MCG, Melbourne and Olympic Park stadiums are the envy of the world, but in a competitive market we can’t sit back and let others pass us by,” Andrews said on Wednesday.

“I encourage fresh thinking and innovative ideas to enhance our sporting arenas. Eddie is a passionate Victorian with a love of our great game and a vision for our major sporting precinct.”

Under the proposal, Hisense Arena would be shifted above the railway lines and one of Melbourne’s main train stations, in Richmond, would be rebuilt underground.

Critics have said that the proposed location of the new AFL-standard stadium will be the main sticking point, as Hisense Arena — a multi-purpose facility used for sport and entertainment events – is contracted for use during the Australian Open until 2036.

Jeff Kennett, a former Premier of Victoria, said the tennis contract meant the concept was essentially “dead and buried”.

McGuire, one of Australia’s most influential sports figures, has fleshed out the idea over the past year, and has held discussions with the state government, Melbourne Cricket Club, city planners, developers and financiers.

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