19/06/2015 - 05:26

Does ‘Joe Public’ get a stadium seat?

19/06/2015 - 05:26

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Making sure all parties are happy with the allocation of seating at the new sports stadium will require some nimble footwork by the Barnett government.

GOING UP: An artist’s impression of the stadium, which is now expected to cost $1.27 billion.

Making sure all parties are happy with the allocation of seating at the new sports stadium will require some nimble footwork by the Barnett government.

Colin Barnett took the opportunity during recent parliamentary probing of the 2015-16 budget to boast that work on the new sports stadium at Burswood was 15 per cent completed. By September the figure would be 25 per cent, he said.

That’s good news, suggesting that the massive project would be ready by the target date – the start of the 2018 football season.

Responses to Labor questions revealed that, what was initially the ‘$1 billion stadium’ will now cost $1.27 billion (net present value), including a new railway platform and associated facilities. On top of that are ongoing maintenance charges and the $54 million for the elegant footbridge over the Swan River.

Such major projects inevitably have the potential to embarrass the government of the day with regard to cost and delays. Just think of Labor’s Perth Arena in Wellington Street. Being built in the middle of a construction boom pushed up costs, but design bungles didn’t help.

Even if the sports stadium is ‘on time and on budget’, there is still another issue – the allocation of the 60,000 seats. Mr Barnett is committed to providing about 10,000 seats for the general public, and perhaps between 500 and 2,000 more (he declined to put a figure on it) for ‘stadium membership’, providing the holders with a seat for every event.

The holders of such membership would pay handsomely for the privilege.

Then there are the members of the West Coast Eagles and Fremantle Dockers, which will be the stadium’s major users. The clubs each have memberships of about 50,000, even though Subiaco Oval – known as Domain Stadium – only has 43,500 seats. The record crowd at the ground is 52,781, most standing, at the 1979 WAFL grand final.

The clubs hope the stadium attracts even more members, as they are a valuable source of revenue. But an allocation of 10,000 general admission seats, and perhaps 2,000 for ‘stadium members’, doesn’t leave much room for growth in seating for the two clubs.

Another issue is the price of game day seats. How will they compare with the cost of members’ seats? And where will they be located around the ground, prime spots on the ‘wings’ or tucked away in the pockets? The clubs will not want to lose members if the game day seats are cheaper and considered more attractive.

And why is this important? As government official Ronnie Hurst told the budget estimates hearing: “ … this is a taxpayer-funded stadium, so people who are not members of clubs can rock up on a game day and actually buy one of those 10,000 tickets to actually enter the stadium.”

There will be a lot of tip toeing around this issue. The clubs would prefer early assurances, while Mr Barnett might view it as an issue to be confronted after the March 2017 state election, for obvious reasons.

Bondy

WHEN it came to something he wanted, swashbuckling entrepreneur Alan Bond, who died earlier this month aged 77, rarely took ‘no’ for an answer. But sometimes he had no choice.

Take his 2,000 hectares of rural land 15 kilometres north-east of the city, known as Santa Maria Downs. Zoned rural, the property’s previous owner had run cattle on it. Bond Corporation sought to have it rezoned, including the development of about 300ha for industry.

Obviously this would significantly increase its value.

In 1969, the Metropolitan Region Planning Authority rejected the Bond application, backing an earlier view of then premier David Brand that ‘measures already being taken would provide enough urban land to meet demands for the next few years’.

But Mr Bond persisted. In 1971 he was back on the job, this time pressuring the new Labor town planning minister, Herb Graham.

So concerned was Town Planning commissioner John Lloyd that the accepted plan for Perth’s expansion might be overturned, he fired off a two-page memo to Mr Graham. Mr Lloyd noted that the new minister had discussed ‘local planning issues with interested parties (read Mr Bond) though leaving me and this department in ignorance of your views on several other aspects which have far wider regional significance’.

He said the minister seemed to have ‘contempt’ for his government advisers.

Eighteen months later, an unsigned memo to the Town Planning Department’s chief planner, David Carr, about the ‘latest stuff on Santa Maria’, indicated continuing strong resistance to the Bond strategy.

Referring to the ‘corridor’ plan, which provided for urban development separated by green belts, the memo said: “We must give a neo-religious aura to the green wedges, backed up by some tough legislation. This we shall do and quick smart, too!

“Amicable little Bondy hasn’t got a hope in hell!”

It was a different story 11 years later, however, after Mr Bond’s yacht, Australia II, won the America’s Cup, and he was a national hero and generous Labor Party donor.


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