May 25, 2022 | By Graeme Kemlo
The recently renamed S K Warne stand at Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) could be rebuilt at a cost of more than $1 billion with a proposal under consideration by government and the Melbourne Cricket Club to maintain the city’s major events leadership.
The stand, previously known as the Great Southern, was built in 1992 and occupies half the ground, seating about 45,000 spectators, but could see an extra 5,000 to 10,000 seats added to the current 100,000 seat capacity under proposals being considered.
Despite suggestions the whole MCG might get a roof, which would make it a 100,000 – and maybe a 110,000 – seat all-weather sports and entertainment facility, it is already the largest in the southern hemisphere.
Should it gain a 110,000-seat capacity, the MCG would be the world’s third largest stadium behind India’s Narendra Modi stadium in Gujarat (132,000 seats) and North Korea’s Rungrado stadium in Pyongyang (114,000 seats).
The largest recorded crowd to attend the MCG was 121,696, which included standing room, for the 1970 VFL Grand Final, however the largest meeting was the evangelical preacher Billy Graham’s 1959 “crusade” with a reported 130,000 attendees filling the stands and the playing arena.
While the 1992 stand was expected to last 40 years, it is understood the advent of new stadia, such as the 60,000-seat Optus Stadium in Perth, with its proven capability and new technologies to stage major entertainment events, and the revamp of Adelaide Oval, with an integrated five-star hotel, have caused Melbourne to investigate whether it needs to update the MCG sooner than expected.
All three stadia have a range of dedicated meeting spaces within their buildings and regularly host business events from a score to several thousand theatre-style on non-fixture dates. And Melbourne is conscious of potential threats from other major stadium developments in Sydney, Brisbane and on the Gold Coast.
But the suggestion is that a reimagined MCG should also include a sports, dining and entertainment precinct around the arena to increase its ability to operate as a seven-day-a-week public venue. It is already home to the Australian Sports Museum.
Originally a paddock in Yarra Park, the first buildings on the MCG site were erected in 1853 and the stadium housed troops during the wars and hosted the 1956 Summer Olympics, Cricket World Cups, Commonwealth Games and will likely play a part in staging the Rugby World Cups in 2027 and 2029.
No rebuilding is expected until after 2027 and sports events are planned to continue at the MCG. Rebuilding would take about two years with a restricted seating capacity.
The Victorian government has signed an agreement with the AFL to hold its Grand Final at the MCG until 2057.
It is understood most of the rebuilding cost would be met by the state.