Late last week the State Government and the AFL announced a $225m allocation in the 2018/19 budget that will facilitate a major redevelopment of the Etihad Stadium Sporting and Entertainment Precinct.
This forms part of a $500m package to retain the AFL Grand Final at the MCG for the next 40 years, support grassroots football and the growing women's competitions through upgrades to local community grounds and suburban stadiums.
The Etihad Stadium upgrade will deliver upgrades for rectangular sports like soccer and rugby, improve women's change facilities and guarantees access for other codes and major events. Developed over the last two-years, the redevelopment will see AFL House demolished and replaced with a multi-storey building with improved connections to the waterfront and surrounding precinct.
The plans will be further developed and refined over the next 12-18 months, according to the AFL with works not likely to commence until 2020.
We have made a committment to the government that it is a venue that is open for all sports and we've committed to that for 30 years. We have always had that attitude and this is now contractually guaranteed.
We want to open up Etihad Stadium, have a better venue and better destination and open up the precinct.
- AFL Chief Executive Gillon McLachlan
Originally breaking the story on the Footy Show, host and Collingwood President Eddie McGuire spoke about the desire to better integrate the stadium with the Docklands precinct and improve connections for visitors arriving from Southern Cross Station, with the possibility that not only would the works encapsulate AFL House but also Channel 7's digital studios.
The details of this have yet to be confirmed.
Unlike most stadiums around the world, Etihad Stadium (originally Colonial Stadium) was always envisaged as an urban stadium acting as a catalyst for the redevelopment of the former docks, with its four 'corners' eventually developing over time to fill out and assist in achieving the vision for a 24/7 precinct.
It can be argued that the Stadium Precinct hasn't quite reached its true potential with opportunity for the stadium itself to offer more on non-event days and contribute to the activity and liveliness of the area.
Development of the remaining two parcels will go some way to improving and contributing to the area, with developments by AZX Group and Salta Properties injecting further residential and hotel program into the precinct at their 685 and 695 LaTrobe Street sites.
Most critically, however, in the mind of this author is the redevelopment of Harbour Esplanade and whether any funding from the State Government and/or AFL will be allocated to finally get this key project realised, after a number of false starts over the years.