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Above and Beyond

In addition to constructing a premium sports venue, the Perth Stadium, Rob Ridley finds out how the Western Australian government is creating a sports precinct to enhance the Aussie rules gameday experience.

The 2018 Australian Football League (AFL) season is set to welcome a new showpiece venue for its Western Australian teams with a 60,000-seat stadium that aims to reflect the city of Perth’s growth and increasing ambitions in the event hosting arena.

Capable of expanding to a 70,000 capacity, the new Perth Stadium will accommodate AFL teams the West Coast Eagles and the Fremantle Dockers, along with cricket and entertainment events. The provision of an additional 5,000 drop-in seats, potentially bringing capacity up to 75,000, will add flexibility to host rugby union and league, as well as soccer games.

The stadium will also be able to host major sports events consistent with the requirements for the Commonwealth Games and international athletics meets.

“The state government has long recognised the need for an increased capacity multi-purpose venue, reflecting the unprecedented population growth of this major city,” Terry Waldron, Western Australian minister for sport and recreation, told SportBusiness International.

“This will be a world-class venue, symbolic of our community’s ongoing passion for sport and live entertainment. The new stadium will also be reflective of Perth’s rapid transformation into a modern, vibrant city of international standing.

“It will create a spectacular gateway to the Perth CBD (central business district), whilst also enhancing the city’s reputation as a world-class destination for events and visitors alike.

“Above all, the stadium and sports precinct’s priority is to put the needs of the fans first in all planning and design, to deliver an exceptional event atmosphere and experiences that can only be attained by being at the venue.”

Fans First

The state government has selected the WESTADIUM consortium for the design, build, partial finance and maintenance of the project, with the contract finalised and the design revealed in July this year.

A budget has been set at AU$902.4 million ($847.7 million), consisting of AU$820.7 million for the stadium and AU$81.7 million for the surrounding sports precinct.

“Sixty per cent of the capital cost will be paid by the state during the construction period,” says Waldron. “The balance will be incorporated into service payments payable over 25 years of the contract. Using the DBFM (design, build, finance and maintain) model, the government has been able to drive efficiencies by contracting across a 25-year period rather than procuring maintenance services independently.”

Regarding the design ethos for the Perth Stadium, Waldron says the venue intends to serve as a “permanent centrepiece” for the redevelopment of the city’s Burswood Peninsula on the Swan River.

He adds that the stadium will reflect Perth’s culture and history, harnessing the parkland location in the design and developing the connection to the Swan River.

“The unique bronze façade will pay homage to Western Australia’s unique geology and ensures the structure will be instantly recognisable,” he says.

“State-of-the-art LED lighting will also be imbedded within the façade providing the opportunity to digitally highlight the home team colours at night.”

Home Advantage

State officials have stressed their focus on delivering a ‘fans first’ stadium, with the seating bowl designed to create an intimate atmosphere that whips up a home advantage.

“The stadium will offer an unrivalled spectator experience, including the widest range of seating and hospitality options of any stadium in Australia,” says Waldron. “Seats will be a minimum of 50-centimetres wide and as close to the on-field action as possible, regardless of the event. The premium facilities will offer a plethora of options for patrons including some unique experiences for fans that have an enhanced ticket.”

A ‘Coaches Club’ that is positioned adjacent to the home team’s coaches’ box will also enable fans to see and potentially hear the action direct from the coaches. In addition to this, there will be two 240-metre-squared giant video screens in the stadium – some of the largest in Australia.

“Over 1,000 TV screens will be located throughout the interior of the stadium so fans don’t miss any of the action, while 4G and Wi-Fi will be provided across the stadium and sports precinct,” Waldron adds.

“Delayed procurement of technology will ensure the latest discoveries are utilised once the venue is operational in 2018.”

Beyond the stadium and sports precinct budget, an additional AU$339.2 million has been set aside to enhance public transport links through integrated train, bus and pedestrian solutions.

Meanwhile, the wider sports precinct has been inspired by indigenous dream stories and the connection with the Swan River, and the precinct will have three distinct recreational spaces that can be used year-round.

“A covered Community Arbour represents Noongar Community Stories, linking the six-platform Stadium Station to the River,” adds Waldron. “The Community Sporting Oval in the north is available for public use on non-event days and will provide event-day parking.

“The western section of the precinct is home to two restaurants, an amphitheatre, children’s playgrounds, picnic areas and other community spaces, which encourages year-round use and revitalises the Burswood Peninsula in which it sits.”

Staying on Target

The site for the new stadium was used after the early settlement of Perth as a market garden, then as the city’s first golf course, a horse racing track, a landfill facility and – up until April 2013 – as a golf course once again.

Ronnie Hurst, project director for the new Perth Stadium, says the site has presented the state with “unique geotechnical challenges” to overcome, not least its location on Perth’s largest waterway. 

Site works commenced soon after the closure of the golf course, with Hurst highlighting ground treatment and environmental obstacles presented by sand surcharging close to the Swan River as key challenges that had to be overcome.

There will be commercial implications should the consortium not reach the contracted milestones

Looking to the future, Hurst says that site progress remains on target for stadium construction to commence by the end of the year. And with the 2018 Aussie rules season pencilled in for the stadium’s debut, he is convinced that the new landmark for Perth’s cityscape will be ready on time.

“Currently, site settlement remains on schedule, with the ground settling at an average of four millimetres per day and on target to be at the required levels by the end of 2014,” says Hurst.

“A key criterion WESTADIUM had to address in its bid response was in relation to its ability to meet the state’s specifications and timelines. There are a range of commercial implications should the consortium not reach the contracted milestones, strongly incentivising on-time completion.”

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