Upgrade Plans For Etihad Stadium

The Australian Football League is in talks with the state government of Victoria to provide “hundreds of millions of dollars” in funding to upgrade  in Melbourne.

Photo: Melbourne Stadium Ltd.
When a massive storm hit Melbourne Feb. 28 forcing the cancellation or delays of many festivals and concerts, Foo Fighters managed to play the Australian city when the 53,359-capacity Etihad Stadium closed its retractable roof. The Foo Fighters visit was booked through Frontier Touring.

The AFL is to take ownership of the sports and entertainment stadium in 2025. But it is in negotiations with venue manager Melbourne Stadiums Limited to purchase it earlier. The AFL, which is headquartered in the venue, wants to expand its capacity from 53,359 to 60,000, include a retractable roof and make it part of a Docklands sports and entertainment precinct.

An earlier idea was for Etihad Stadium, built in 2000 for A$460 million ($350.7 million), to be demolished to make way for a new stadium near Melbourne Cricket Grounds. But the new AFL proposal is a cheaper option. It would also be a tourist boost for Melbourne, and guarantees Victoria remaining Australia’s leading state for sports and entertainment events. Last year, Etihad Stadium hosted concerts by AC/DC, Foo Fighters and One Direction. It also regularly hosts soccer matches and one-off matches for cricket, rugby league and rugby union.

In March, Etihad Stadium lost its chief executive, British-born Paul Sergeant, who took over the role late 2012 after stints at London’s Wembley Stadium and Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium. Sergeant said it was “time to move on,” but reports suggested that his hard negotiations with AFL clubs alienated the league. James Brayshaw, chairman of the North Melbourne club, last year complained his club’s deal to play there was “the worst stadium deal in the history of world sport, really.” Operations manager Michael Green has been filling in as acting CEO.