AFL football faces a capacity constraint in WA. The ground at which all the AFL games are played, Subiaco Oval, can only accommodate about 44,000 fans. But the more popular of the two teams based in Perth, the West Coast Eagles, could sign over 50,000 members if only it could seat them. Australian Rules is by far the most popular sport in WA, so there is pressure on the WA State Government to finance the building of a new stadium.
The WA Football Commission has shot itself in the foot on this. The previous Labour state government of Premier Alan Carpenter offered to fund the building of a $800 million stadium for 60,000 fans. The WA football commission didn’t like the Government’s plan and held out for funding of their model stadium. But then the Liberal Government of Premier Colin Barnett was elected and the GFC came along. The opportunity was lost.
The Premier of WA, Colin Barnett, does not put a high priority on building a new football stadium. He has said repeatedly that spending of $1 billion of taxpayer’s money on a football stadium cannot be justified in the current climate. The third budget of the Barnett Government was delivered yesterday. Far from $1 billion for a new stadium, it includes only $13 million for another study of the building of a stadium. Such is the support for football in WA, if there is no funding for a stadium, then there must at least be a study. So $13 million is the political price of no stadium funding.
What I don’t understand is why it would cost $1 billion to build a stadium for 60,000 fans. In the US there are dozens of football stadiums on university campuses that seat 80 – 100,000 fans. Do you think that Stanford or Penn State or Florida State spent a $1 billion on these stadiums. No, of course not. They spent a small fraction of that. The reason is that don’t have ridiculously grandiose requirements. These stadiums have no roofs, or much in the way of corporate boxes or other amenities. But so what?
Barnett’s Government should say to the WA Football Commission that you only need $400 million maximum to build a stadium for 80,000 fans if you forget about trying to make it look like the new Wembley or the new Yankee Stadium. Just keep it simple and the Government will pay for it, otherwise forget it.