The Cumberland Throw

New Stadium – Second Focus Group Feedback

Last night I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend the second focus group to discuss the Western Sydney Stadium. As you may have seen from Sixties post a couple of weeks ago, the Eels and the Wanderers were asked to supply a number of fans to discuss some ideas and give feedback from their experiences watching sport both locally and internationally. Sixties and I were joined by four fellow members of the Eels Members Council so that evened the numbers up a bit more this time.

Funnily enough, while we were there, Sydney Morning Herald released a story on the stadium. That story was completely accurate. You can read it here – http://www.1eyedeel.com/forum/topics/design-plans-for-300-million-stadium-in-parramatta-to-be-unveiled

I am going to attempt to provide you with as much information as possible regarding what they are considering and the thinking behind some of their decisions. Therefore, this is a long and detailed post. Hope you can get through it ok!!

 

The Contracting Process

PwC has been engaged to conduct a review for the NSW Government in an attempt to create a document that will be released to the market called an Expression of Interest. For those not familiar with this term, it gives companies who might be interested in bidding for the demolition and construction an opportunity to review the brief and determine if they would like to participate further into the selection process.

Once the EOI has been returned, a short list will be compiled before a more formal Request for Proposal is lodged, moving to the negotiation of contracts and the commencement of demolition and construction.

The project is being considered and funded based on the Stadium having a 50 year lifespan. This is a critical to understand as it became apparent that from day 1, what we get we will have to accept for a long time, probably longer than most of us will be around for!

PwC performed a similar role for the new Perth Stadium that is being build next to Crown (on top of the golf course to my absolute dismay) That Stadium is being built by Brookfield with technology deployments through the likes of Cisco and Telstra (interest declared).

We have come a long way...

We have come a long way…

The Brief

PwC then went on to detail some of the items that will be included in the document to the bidders.

  • The Pitch needs to be of the highest quality.
  • The Pitch will be as small as possible, enhancing the spectator experience. Likely to be 2 metres shorter and 1 metre wider, primarily for broadcast equipment / purposes
  • The ‘tight’ seating bowl of Parramatta Stadium (i.e. close to the action) needs to be retained.
  • The roof will cover all seats with the ‘drip line’ (where rain falls off the front of the roof) being on the edge of the field
  • A ‘people’s venue’ philosophy will be mandated where safety and comfort are paramount construction and design objectives.
  • Flip seats, which are wider than the current fixed seats will be deployed. These seats will be in different shades of grey, which are supposedly longer lasting in outdoors conditions and better for broadcasts when the seats are empty.
  • The players will sit in ‘dug out’s’
  • LED ribbon advertising will be installed all the way around the field and at the front of the stands
  • There will be a terrace area that encourages family participation. It was mentioned that this could include a kids zone where parents could watch the kids play and also watch the game.
  • Wider walkways including aisles
  • Universal access so disabled / wheelchair spectators can watch the game sitting anywhere, rather than the designated areas we see today.
  • Purified water drinking fountains will be distributed throughout the Stadium
  • There will be diverse catering – more on this later
  • Dedicated merchandise outlets
  • More gates and entrances
  • A Custodial Room (gaol cells) under the Stadium. The Wanderers fans appreciated this more than the mobile cop bus that greets them at the gates when they arrive at each game.
  • High speed broadband, video screens and lighting
  • A top quality PA
  • Rain harvesting roofs
  • 2 huge LED screens in opposite corners
  • 360 degrees access around the stadiums for people and vehicles.
  • Four change rooms to make transition between games more efficient
  • Dedicated medical rooms because at the moment, if there is a corpse in your change room, you can’t do anything about it. (If you don’t know what I mean, watch our Jack Gibson tribute).
You may well be able to teach your kid how to swim while watching a game, or teach them a lesson if they misbhave

You may well be able to teach your kid how to swim while watching a game, or teach them a lesson if they misbehave

Areas Under Investigation

There were several areas still under investigation. These include

  • Rail seating, as described in the earlier report by Sixties.
  • Capacity or expansion of the Stadium – more later
  • Traffic control and access
  • Dedicated zone near change rooms and where the players enter the Stadium for fans

I can understand the Wanderers request for rail seating. It works well in some parts of Europe, and when designed and installed safely, it would be a tremendous way to watch football. In this circumstance, I just can’t see it happening for them.

Firstly, they have very little political capital at the moment, so I cant see the Police or NSW Government doing them any favours. There would be significant resistance from an OH&S level. We are over regulated in the Lucky Country these days.

Secondly, the rail seating isn’t allowed in FIFA competitions. I am not sure about AFC matches, but just making the point that for those games to be played at our new Stadium, the rails will have to be removed. For Rugby League games, in order for a clear view, it is likely that the rails will need to be removed. A removable system brings in design challenges, additional costs, storage requirements and additional maintenance.

Anyway, I could be wrong, we will see.

The only rail seating the Wanderers fans will get is on the way to and from the game

Not the type of rail seating the Wanderers were after but available to and from the game.

Catering

We spent a significant part of the meeting discussing catering. We filled in a survey, which was mainly targeted at our willingness to eat at the Stadium under certain scenarios such as food choices, quality and price

  • Potentially, cafes and restaurants will be built under the stand on the Eastern side, facing the current pool (or sitting on top of it) which will be open to ticketed patrons on game day. These outlets might be open to the public on non game days.
  • We made the point that these days, Parramatta offers tremendous food options and greasy crap at Pirtek just wont cut it. There were comments about bringing ‘eat street’ to the stadium, craft brewers, tea houses and wine bars. All sounded very sophisticated. House prices are like the Eastern suburbs so why cant the footy experience match!
  • Options for outlets include everything you can think of. A lovely Wanderers fan reminded everyone that we had forgotten a noodle house so that went down too.

I get the feeling that the new Stadium will encourage you to have an experience, not just come to watch the football. The excitement and activity around the area will encourage you to come and eat, drink and socialise before or after a game, rather than the ‘hit and run’ approach of the modern spectator. I think it will be brilliant if they can pull it off.

Fine dining before we smash the Bulldogs?? Bring it on.

Fine dining before we smash the Bulldogs?? Bring it on.

 

Excluded

A number of items have been excluded from the brief

  • A pedestrian bridge over O’Connell Street (budget)
  • Retractable roof (budget)

 

Specific Requests of Bidders

The bidders will be asked to specifically detail the following in their responses

  • Precinct Master Plan to separate cars and people
    • Unlike today’s experience, where you can be hit by a car or bus leaving the game, the car park between the leagues club and ground will most likely go. I think they will extend the car park at the southern end of the Pool. This additional space, in combination with the 1000 or so spots at new Leagues Club car park will be about as much parking as we get.
  • Study existing parking availability for Park and Ride scenarios
  • Out the back of the Cronin Stand, facing O’Connell Street, where you can find Miatch on the microphone most game days, will be the site of a ‘Plaza’. This will be the major entry point for patrons into the Stadium precinct. We spoke about having open food areas, drink stands, a large screen so you can watch the preceding game or perhaps a game from another venue before entering for the main event. When this area is joined up to the walkway from the redeveloped Leagues Club, you can start to imagine the possibilities of something very special in that area for fans.
  • Orientation of the ground
    • It is possible that the orientation of the ground may change. Design guidelines indicate the ground can face anywhere between due north and 15 degrees to the east.
  • Inclusion of other commercial opportunities such as indoor sports, additional restaurants and bars and tourism accommodation in order to make use of the facility on non game days.
Car parking at the Leagues Club on any Friday night in winter

Car parking at the Leagues Club on any Friday night in winter

Consideration of Bidders

Bidders will be asked to consider the following in their responses

  • Alcohol free zones
  • Fan groups sitting together
  • Catering
  • Stadium technology
  • Merchandising stores
  • Banking facilities
  • Hall of Fame, Memorabilia
  • Stadium tours
  • Vehicle access from all parts of the ground in order to reduce ‘turning circle’ damage
  • The venue will host Rugby League, Rugby Union, Football, concerts, functions and even weddings for ex Auburn Councillors.
  • The Stadium is planned for 50% female attendance so the usual issues of long toilet queues, baby feeding / changing rooms should be covered.

 

Government Considerations

The appropriate Government Authority is investigating these items:

  • Links with Public Transport
  • Shuttle buses
  • Less intrusive Police presence
  • Taking over the Pool is a possibility, although somewhere to relocate it to and the cost is a different story.
Current shuttle bus from Parramatta station to Pirtek

Current shuttle bus from Parramatta station to Pirtek

Capacity

Ok, if you have stuck with me for this long, you will want to know about the capacity issue.

The Wanderers and the their fans in attendance are pushing strongly for capacity to be increased to 35,000. This as we know, would be 32,000 punters and 3,000 toffs. 5,000 more punters than currently planned.

The feedback from PwC was that the Eels haven’t really been pushing this issue hard. I find that to be short sighted if correct.

We spoke for some time about ways in which the stadium could be built in such a way that capacity can be added over time. The general feeling was that we need to grab the cash now, spend it on the best possible Stadium because Parramatta wont be seeing any more cheques from Macquarie Street for about three generations.

The capacity enhancements where all pretty much unacceptable anyway. If you want to build a 30k Stadium and expand it to 40k in 15 years, you basically have to build it for 40k on day one. This is because you need to allow for the facilities such as toilets, walkways, seating areas etc, unless you want to take off a roof which would be cost prohibitive.

For those people calling for more than 35k, the budget wont stretch that far. There are also other considerations such as Heritage Listed views, Parramatta Park and other height restrictions. 35k is our best case.

The PwC crew spoke about Perth, where they were hoping to get some out of the box thinking from the leading three Stadium builders in the world. They got the same old designs and costs. It is just not possible to extend these things for a decent cost. Day 1 is what we will have for a long time as far as capacity is concerned. So understanding this, we agreed that PwC would take our feedback to the Authorities that anything less than a 35,000 seater is short sighted and only solving today’s problems.

A couple of things to finish.

I understand there was a bit of animosity at the first meeting. I wasn’t at that one, but I must say that this meeting was conducted with respect from both the Eels fans and Wanderers. In fact, I reckon we agreed on just about everything, which is a bit scary. PwC handled the process professionally as you would expect from a firm of their reputation. They were prepared, shared a lot of detail with us and answered as many questions as possible.

It was a worthwhile exercise and I am sure our feedback will be considered during the bidding process. We will get together as a group again after the final contract has been awarded.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Go the Eels !!

Chris.

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sixties
Admin

This is a superb write up from Chris. He managed to take copious notes in addition to endearing himself to all in attendance! On a serious note, the new stadium will be home to the Eels for the next 50 years. So, if we get a 27K stadium, we are stuck with that for 50 years! No capacity for meeting increased ticketing demand, probable limitations on ticketed memberships in a rapidly growing Western Sydney. But what are we hearing whispers about? 45K stadiums in Liverpool or around South Western Sydney. How many football clubs are located around there? Will such… Read more »

EelsFan
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EelsFan

Thanks for the info Chris! Very insightful

Very happy fans have been involved in this process and given a voice.

35k capacity has to happen, it would be plain shortsightedness for it not too. Both The eels & wanderers will exceed 30,000 members in the next decade.

Looking forward to seeing what proposals we get back, and the final choice

Mitchy
Guest
Mitchy

Chris superb comment mate and I love the anecdotes about mayors etc. and that bus photo was a beauty. That must have been a good day in the Middle east. I cannot help but be cynical. In 1986 a 25 k stadium was superb; and these guys are only talking about 35k capacity in 2016? Fair dinkum – the current govt have done well with this; but like the M7 that was built on time, we will be questioning in the future why a 45k stadium was NOT built. With the amount of new-comers to this country ( I am… Read more »

Gol
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Gol

Good to hear all sides are getting along and progress is being made, especially on the insistence for 35,000+. I would hope the club gets behind this a little more but it doesn’t surprise me that if they really want to push one issue, it is corporate facilities. I hope all those sponsors enjoy heading back to ANZ in ten years for half our games. It may just be me but I could live with a stadium that only has moderate catering facilities, something like ANZ or the SFS now in terms of options. I don’t need restaurants in the… Read more »

Parramatta Tragic
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Parramatta Tragic

Hello Chris and thanks for the feedback. My question is in relation to leg room. While the seats will be wider, anyone who has played a lot of sport has dodgy knees and needs legroom to be comfortable due to reduced range of movement. If they are going to try and squeeze extra people in, can we make sure that legroom is a consideration and the distance between the seats in front is not reduced. Going to the Opera House is a pain with your knees up around your chin and sitting in total discomfort.

Parramatta Tragic
Guest
Parramatta Tragic

p.s. The stadium obviously needs to be greater than 30,000 capacity. This is very shortsighted and maybe political to keep ANZ (Olympic Stadium) viable. The bare minimum needs to be 35,000 but make sure that they keep the legroom!

cm
Guest
cm

Great summary – thanks! I was one of the wanderers fans present – just wanted to clarify on the rail seating. Rail seating allows for two modes – a safe standing mode and a sitting mode. It is the sitting mode which is not allowed in FIFA comps (World Cups, Continental championships etc). So for these games the area reverts to sitting mode by locking down the seats. This reduces the capacity somewhat, as more can go there when it is in standing mode. This of course also impacts on designs for egress. The issue here that the Eels chairman… Read more »

cm
Guest
cm

Of course, I meant, it is the “standing mode” which is not allowed in FIFA comps…. so much for clarification

Hamsammich
Guest
Hamsammich

Hey cm, as a person who only ever sits at the games and stands up when something exciting happens can I ask why do the seats need to be locked into position? We are already getting flip seats so if the seat is in its default setting what is the need of a rail and for it to be locked?

cm
Guest
cm

Hamsammich (I’m trying to remember if this was one of the food options… I think so!) I think the attraction for football fans is that you end up with essentially a standing area with nothing impeding movement at all. For active supporters who want to jump up and down or side to side etc this does make a difference. It makes it easier to have flags, drums etc in there too. Fold up seats would be better than the buckets, but the rail seats would be optimum – the fold ups still make a bit of a squeeze and there… Read more »

Snake
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Snake

CM when the seats are folded back dont they then have the room they need?

Not having a go but i dont understand the need for the type of seating the WSW are asking for?

Like once you stand up when you are in a stadium with flip back seats you then have the room to stand up and cheer, i dont go to soccer so im just really confused as to why soccer fans need anything more than flip back seating when you are all standing?

cheers

Colin Hussey
Guest
Colin Hussey

Chris, Thanks for the well structured & presented report, you have done well. When 60’s put his post up regarding the new stadium, I immediately felt the idea of a 30000 capacity stadium especially when there is 3000 removed from the general fans capacity, meaning we only get a stadium of 27000 for the peasants as it where. A mere 2000 more than when the ends were grassed & original (new) stadium was opened, was & is very short sighted in deed. I believe the very minimum seating capacity should be 40000, if seating has to be set aside for… Read more »

sixties
Admin

There will be height limitations. With universal access for disabled spectators I would imagine that this will be an easier climb than some stadiums (even Parra Stadium was a challenge for me last year after breaking my leg). To be honest, I think that building restrictions would prevent a Stadium over 40K, but if we have this “boutique” stadium built now, there will be nothing more for 50 years.

sixties
Admin

I should also mention that PWC gave us plenty of opportunity to voice our concerns about stadium size. I’m sure that they will represent that opinion, but we need to keep up the noise about it.

Troser Eel
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Troser Eel

A great read Chris. I love the humour throughout. I really admire you guys that dedicate your personal time for the benefit of us part time fans. I’m sure you’ll keep pushing for greater capacity but in all honesty, the way I see it (and I know 50 years is a long time so things may change) the stadium will on most occasions not be sold out. So what we’re arguing for is for the part-time part-time fans who only come to a game once in every blue moon. We all complain about Stadium Australia having no soul because most… Read more »

Trouser Eel
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Trouser Eel

Dammit – I spelt my own name wrong.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Trouser, I think you have forgotten that Parra haven’t been within cooee of finals appearances since 2009. That is a major factor with recent crowds. I don’t think that a 35K stadium is going to be some empty soulless stadium. When we play at ANZ the crowds, no matter the opponent, are consistently above the Parra Stadium capacity. Why would this be? The venue isn’t great for viewing League. Transport can be more awkward than for Parra. Is it something to do with the guarantee of a seat? Is it better facilities? If a better stadium is built that is… Read more »

Snake
Guest
Snake

Outstanding review Chris, seriously very well written and deatailed.

Just reading through it, a bit worried about different shades of grey seating, sounds a bit depressing to the artist in me, a big grey concrete stadium and seats, id have thought different shades of green like the storms home ground would really lift the place, has anybody got any pictures of stadiums with grey seats?

cheers

Snake
Guest
Snake

30K is too small but its got nothing to do with the spin they are putting on what they are capable of catering for etc and everything to do with contracts signed with the other two sydney stadiums.
30K is just crazy, it needs 35k minimum.

Snake
Guest
Snake

OK theres a very serious point that seems to have been missed by all the experts……..The Opposition change room/shed. If we want to get with the times and use this place to our advantage. Did anybody mention the word SPY CAMERAS and LISTENING DEVICES? This needs to be looked into and is a must in any stadium im involved with. What about little gas outlets? im not suggesting Auschwitz style here just some little hidden outlets to get the opposition a bit ‘Drowsy’, maybe even tinker with the water supply if needed. It needs to be depressing and cramped too,… Read more »

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Sssshhhhh! Don’t reveal all.

Rowdy
Guest
Rowdy

Very good post Chris. I may be reading something into this, but you give the impression that WSW’s fans in attendance were realists, when our Eels delegation put forth a continued diplomatic position regarding seating/standing for ratbags, that’s refreshing. Representation in numbers has it’s benefits in a forum such as that of the “second focus group”. In rugby league timing is everything, therefore I thank God for the recent WSW bully fan group exposure. Why would anyone (including the majority of WSW fans) want more of that behaviour being rewarded with their own play pen? Once again, thank you Chris,… Read more »

Colin Hussey
Guest
Colin Hussey

60’s, while I feel pretty sure the following figures have probably been used in submissions for the new stadium & apologies if they have but if not, I do think they are relevant to what really is needed for the district needs into the future. These are the official crowd records for the grounds the eels have used as their home grounds not including the ANZ matches. Record crowd old Cumberland Oval 22,470 vses Souths April 26 1971 Record Crowd at Belmore 25028 Vses Manly August 7 1983 Record Crowd at Parramatta Stadium 27423 Vses Souths August 17 1986 What… Read more »

sixties
Admin

That’s my concern Colin – a stadium that doesn’t meet needs means events being switched and a white elephant is created. I don’t think that 40K will be achieved, but 35K must be the ambition.

Colin Hussey
Guest
Colin Hussey

60’s always felt that the best option is go for the highest potential that is perhaps achievable, 40000 is a good figure at what would be the higher end, or perhaps highest end. Shoot for that & getting 35000 is a good base line to agree with, old saying about you can always go down in price/numbers than you can go up. I guess I just wonder if the old attendence records & eels supporters over the years has been brought to the attention of those who will be making the decision. Other thought & question is in regard to… Read more »