Stadium envy


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.

10 Responses to "Stadium envy"
  1. Sorry Sam, but that’s a tad naive. AFL stadia are not equivalent to US college stadia. You can’t get away with leaving out rooves or corporate boxes in Australia.

  2. Paul
    US college stadia are a good model for a WA football.  There are only about 25 big football matches in Perth each year and a few rock concerts.  Cricket is played at the WACA.  Spending a $1 billion of taxpayers money on a football stadium in Perth won’t ever make sense.  So, the choices are to live with the existing 44,000 capacity stadium or build a low cost model the houses 80,000 just like the college football stadia.  
    Do you think the Commonwealth will fund it?

  3. Yep, where’s the case for football non-fans to pay extra tax for  football fans?  I’m no rabid small-government type, but I can think of a helluva lot of better uses for my tax money than that.

    Dave’s right – if they’re all such AFL fanatics in Perth then there ought to be no trouble in financing even a billion-dollar stadium privately.  Conversely, if it can’t be privately financed then only a minority of the public will use it and the majority should not be asked to pay for that minority’s entertainment.

  4. Why should for football non-fans pay tax for extra comfort for football fans, especially footy fans who can afford private boxes?  Dave’s right – if they’re all such AFL fanatics in Perth then there should be no trouble in financing even a billion-dollar stadium privately.  Conversely, if it can’t be privately financed then its only for a minority and the majority shouldn’t be asked to pay for their entertainment.

    You can’t get away with leaving out rooves or corporate boxes in Australia. – Paul

    Why?  Unlike the northeastern US (or even Melbourne) Perth gets no blizzards and few torrential downpours.  And given their small numbers the corporate eilte doing deals in boxes at the footy would be chickenfeed revenue compared to big crowds and hence big TV rights.  In fact I reckon there’s probably already big hidden subsidies to corporate entertainment (of which the sports adminstrators are generally a recipient) in major sports in Oz. 

  5. Ridiculous to compare the cost of US college stadiums – typically built in the early 1900’s, with the cost of a modern stadium build. A quick bit of research will show that colleges you mentioned commonly spend amounts like $225m (e.g., Michigan 2007) simply modernising these old stadiums (putting in seating or boxes). Most would be valued at over $1 billion now. Cowboys stadium cost 1.3 billion new. Building big things costs lots of money these days! The question of whether it is worth it or not is a very different issue, but a cheap option isn’t a smart idea. Note the $1 biliion would likely include major upgrades to public trasnport and surrounding infrastructure as in S.A.

  6. Bert
    You are actually making my argument for me.  Michigan spent $225 million to undertake a complete overhaul of a 110,000 seat stadium.  The AFL wants to spend $1000 million to build a 60,000 fan stadium.  $2000 per seat versus $16,000 per seat.  Renovation is different to building, but often not less expensive.  Just look at the cost of renovating the G.  

    Wikipedia has a good page on college football stadiums at

    What Perth needs is a “bowl” like the Cotton Bowl or Yale Bowl.  These bowls are constructed by pushing earth out from the centre into a bowl shape and then building the amenities on the earthworks.  It is very low and perfect for Perth which is built on a sandy plain.  I bet that an 80,000 seat bowl with pretty good amenities could be constructed in Perth for less than $400 million.

  7. I think Barnett is handling this whole situation very well. $1billion for about 60,000 PRIVATE fans is ludicrous. If the Eagles can fill the stadium with their members alone, then effectively it becomes a private stadium, with no revolving attendees, just the same ones every week. And the biggest sporting corporation in the country expects the public to pay for it?! It can’t even be used for anything else (besides 4 rock gigs a year). So for the sake of the 10-20,000 members that are missing out, I think they can put up with the enormous stadium they already have. Tough luck if they built a shitty stadium in the first place. Happy to see Perth Oval get an upgrade though, which I think is about 80million, because it serves 2 major sporting teams AND hosts many more concerts AND revitalises a part of the city. For a fraction of the cost. There is a high degree of unwarranted passion and entitlement amongst AFL supporters and it is cringe-worthy. It’s the epitome of parochial bullshit. So, AFL can do whatever it wants, as long as it doesn’t expect rugby fans, league fans, soccer fans, hockey fans, cricket fans, basketball fans, netball fans, swimming fans, cycling fans et al to pay through the nose for it.

  8. Right on Dave.  And its not just the AFL – the NRL and soccer both try to suck at this teat.  The once-a-week users are also the ones screaming about roads, hospitals, and a bunch of other public items that are definitely in the governmental funding space.  Build a stadium? fine.  get a loan.

  9. WA must move on from the cinderalla state mentality that has held it back for so long and resulted in half arsed public infrastucture because no one ever commits to doing it right the first time! (except Alannah’s southern railway line – the jewel of Australia’s recent public transport builds)
    Don’t we deserve a decent stadium? Aren’t we rich enough?
    Can we have a new museum too? (or are we now just too bogan?)
    Emperor Barnett is delaying a decision until the political cycle suits him best – and he wants to build it on a swamp at an additional cost of $300m.
    The Football commission are bunch of buffoons who have already overseen a half-arsed redevelopment of Subiaco in the 90’s.

    WA and Qld were once both considered cultural backwaters – now that only applies to WA as Qld has great arts centres, museum, also the Gabba, Lang park, GC stadium, Carrara stadium, great new roads a proper airport.
    However they are in debt +50b but at least they have learnt to do things properly.
    Don’t get me started on the socialist agrarians and their rorts for regions……..

    Kitchener park is the right spot. Demolish the low rent flats near the railway line, build a raised walkway over railway line from K park to the new city link near the old ent cent (this will be Perths Fed square and the distance less than 2 k’s about the same as MCG – Fed square)

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