Optus Stadium already eyed for expansion says WA Sports Minister
WA’s Sports Minister has predicted Optus Stadium may need to be expanded at a cost of up to $400 million in the next five to 10 years after a wildly successful first AFL season for the venue.
Ahead of the Eagles’ blockbuster preliminary final against Melbourne at the 60,000-seat stadium today, Mick Murray said the facility had met or exceeded expectations in every sense since hosting its first sporting event in February.
Mr Murray said that while the State Government had no immediate plans to expand the stadium, there would come a time when growing demand might force a rethink.
He noted that the stadium was designed to be upgraded to a capacity of 70,000 seats, though he said the costs of expanding the venue were unknown and certain to run into hundreds of millions of dollars.
The size of the stadium has come under the spotlight after the preliminary final sold out rapidly, and amid reports the Eagles could struggle to hold on to aspiring members unable to get tickets to games.
“‘Is the stadium big enough’ is probably the most frequently asked question I’ve got this week,” Mr Murray told The Weekend West.
“It is, because to put millions extra in for a bigger stadium when you have mid-range games... it would look silly being half-empty.
“The other side is it still has room to put another 10,000 seats there.
“In the future it will probably happen... probably in five or 10 years’ time.”
The comments from Mr Murray come as the stadium prepares to host its final football game for the year.
Mike McKenna, the boss of stadium operator VenuesLive, reflected on its first full season by saying “I don’t think it could have gone much better, to be honest”.
With the West Coast-Demons game set to fill the stadium to capacity, average crowds at the venue across the AFL season would be about 47,500 — just shy of VenuesLive’s target of 48,000.
Mr McKenna said the result was especially pleasing given the “aggressive” nature of the attendance target and the fact that customer satisfaction levels were as high as 94 per cent.
“Eagles fans no doubt have had a really good season because they’ve been winning as well as the stadium,” Mr McKenna said.
“But if you look at Fremantle, who’ve had a mixed year... we’ve seen about 7000 more fans per game from Fremantle than the last 10 years’ average.
“So I would say that indicates to us they’ve enjoyed coming here as well and our job is to keep them coming back.”
Both Mr Murray and Mr McKenna pointed out the extent to which fans had embraced public transport to get to and from games, with average patronage running higher than the target of 83 per cent.
By comparison, said public transport patronage to games to Subiaco had been just 40 per cent.
In line with VenuesLive’s forecasts, Mr McKenna said the stadium would deliver a dividend to the Government this year on the back of its strong financial performance.
He said part of the result had been built on the popularity of the food and beverage offering, which he noted sourced 75 per cent of its products from local suppliers.
“We’ve got an objective to return a decent amount of money to the state... and I think they’ll be very happy,” Mr McKenna said.