New South Wales ends A$800m ANZ Stadium vision

ANZ Stadium pictured during the Covid-19 lockdown (by Matt Blyth/Getty Images)

The New South Wales (NSW) government has dropped controversial plans to give Sydney’s ANZ Stadium an A$800m (€484.4m/$538.3m) revamp, stating that the money would be better spent on other infrastructure projects in the current economic climate.

The announcement was made as the government yesterday (Sunday) detailed a new A$3bn acceleration fund to go towards job-creating projects. The government said the new fund would be used for smaller, “shovel-ready projects” touching every corner of the state, injecting up to an extra 20,000 jobs back into the NSW workforce.

The government will no longer proceed with the refurbishment of ANZ Stadium, otherwise known as Stadium Australia, redirecting around A$800m towards the new fund.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian made the redevelopment of ANZ Stadium, the country’s second largest venue, one of her key promises in last year’s state election but said in the Covid-19 pandemic crisis “it no longer makes sense”.

She told reporters: “Yes, the ANZ Stadium was a priority for us, but since the pandemic, the priorities have changed. We want to put every dollar we have into job creation and into job keeping.”

In October, the National Rugby League (NRL) announced that its Grand Final would effectively remain in Sydney until at least 2046 after reaching a resolution on where its showpiece game is staged amid the A$2bn upgrade project for the city’s two main stadia.

ANZ Stadium has been the traditional home of the Grand Final since 1999, staging last year’s event on October 6. The venue at Sydney Olympic Park was due to be redeveloped under a plan first revealed in November 2017, while Allianz Stadium at Moore Park is being demolished to make way for an entirely new facility.

The project had left open the question of where the Grand Final would be staged while work is being completed, and Queensland is thought to have been under strong consideration to take at least one game to Brisbane. However, as part of an agreement reached with the NSW Government, the NRL said the Grand Final would be held at Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) in 2020 and 2021.

The event will be staged at the new Allianz Stadium in 2022, before returning to ANZ Stadium in 2023. The Grand Final is effectively locked in for Sydney until the end of 2046 due to a 25-year deal agreed in March 2018 which won’t take effect until the stadium project nears completion.

The A$2bn dual-stadium development project proved a political battleground ahead of 2019’s state elections in New South Wales.

The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper said the NRL will meet the NSW government this week and warned that the Grand Final could now be moved from the city, unless the ANZ Stadium masterplan is replaced by a project to deliver up to four ‘boutique’ suburban stadiums over the next decade.

Citing sources with knowledge of the NRL’s stadia strategy, the newspaper said that while the governing body is delighted with the decision by the government’s decision to drop the redevelopment of ANZ Stadium, it will now lobby for up to four 15,000 to 20,000-seat stadia worth about A$150m to A$200m each.