27/02/2007 - 22:00

Codes weigh in on stadia debate

27/02/2007 - 22:00

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There’s no question Western Australia needs a bigger and better outdoor stadium for football and cricket, as well as a dedicated rectangular stadium for rugby and soccer; the questions that remain are where to put them and who will rule.

Codes weigh in on stadia debate

There’s no question Western Australia needs a bigger and better outdoor stadium for football and cricket, as well as a dedicated rectangular stadium for rugby and soccer; the questions that remain are where to put them and who will rule.

The state government-appointed Stadia Taskforce, chaired by John Langoulant, is due to hand its final report to Sport and Recreation Minister John Kobelke on March 31, which is likely to contain the answers.

Under scrutiny are proposals to build a 60,000 seat outdoor stadium on Kitchener/Mueller Parks Subiaco or the East Perth power station, and a $400 million redevelopment of Subiaco Oval.

Also in the running is a late bid from the James Packer-owned Burswood Resort to build an outdoor stadium, together with a rectangular venue on the back nine holes of its golf course.

In addition to the above, the taskforce is investigating the viability of a 35,000 seat dedicated rectangular stadium, including a proposal to increase the capacity of Members Equity Stadium in East Perth at a cost of up to $150 million.

Most vocal of all the stakeholders in the debate is the WAFC, which arguably has the most to lose if AFL matches are moved away from Subiaco Oval.

It seems the two football teams in question also have concerns for their future in this regard and both agree something has to be done soon, as the teams approach capacity memberships.

Fremantle Dockers chief executive Cameron Schwab said it wasn’t a case of “just football, and stuff the rest,” but that any new stadium would be primarily supported by his team and the West Coast Eagles.

“Both clubs finished in the top four this year during a strong economic climate in WA...the Eagles and Freo are clearly competing against each other and the rest of Australia and we need to make sure we remain competitive,” Mr Schwab explained.

“I believe the advantages of the current management arrangements, if diluted, may severely disadvantage our teams.”

West Coast Eagles chief executive Trevor Nisbett said economically, a re-development of Subiaco Oval made sense, provided there was not too much disruption to football games during construction.

“The taskforce may make a number of recommendations but we need to start building something as soon as possible. Until we get a new stadium, 39,000 seats is our limit and that is a major concern to us,” Mr Nisbett said.

West Coast’s membership is expected to approach 50,000 this year, incorporating a host of new junior, eastern states and senior associate members.

The stadia debate has also engaged rugby union newcomers Western Force, which has all but begged for a dedicated rectangular venue.

Chief executive Peter O’Meara said Super 14 Rugby would not survive at an oval venue, whether that is Subiaco Oval or a new development.

“An oval stadium with retractable seating does not solve any of the issues which saw our membership drop by 20 per cent from year one to year two,” he said.

“A lot of people put a lot of hard work into winning the fourth Australian Super 14 franchise, and we have huge support from a local crowd, close to the biggest in Australia, but we need to get the venue right, otherwise we’re at risk.”

He urged the government to build for the future, and said a 35,000 seat stadium would require no further financial commitment from the government once it was built.

Perth Glory part-owner Tony Sage said it had received offers of a long-term home from all the major stakeholders in the current debate being the WACA, Subiaco Oval, Members Equity Stadium and Burswood Resort.

Once the task force deliberations are revealed, Mr Sage believed the team would likely have a choice between the last two, but it was still open minded.

“They know at the end of the day we don’t want to foot the bill for any re-development, it must be financially viable for us,” he said.

“Eventually we hope to have crowds the size of Melbourne Victory’s, of between 25,000 and 30,000 people.”

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