Stadium Design: Grand Designs

First published on SportBusiness

The genesis of a new or renovated stadium begins with the rights-holder who creates a brief that has to both push boundaries and stay within budget. Elisha Chauhan spoke to the venue operator of the historic MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) to find out the challenges faced in the design process.

Stephen Gough
CEO, Melbourne Cricket Club


What has been the motivation behind renovations at the MCG?

The Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC) is constantly striving to ensure the MCG and its facilities remain world-class.
The most recent renovation that has taken place was the refurbishment of the AU$55-million Great Southern Stand, completed prior to the start of the 2013 AFL (Australian Football League) season. The upgrade, funded by a AU$30-million contribution from the Victorian government and AU$25 million from the MCC, has improved the fan experience across all four levels of the stand.

In October this year, the MCC embarked on its most extensive turf-surfacing programme since it reconstructed the field and converted the stadium to host the 2006 Commonwealth Games. The AU$1.7-million programme saw almost 20,000-square-metres of turf stripped and re-levelled.

Of course, improving the fan experience is big driver [for renovations] and, in December last year, we unveiled two new [American electronics producer] Daktronics LED high-definition vision boards that have significantly enhanced that. They are the largest to feature at an Australian sports stadium to date; the digital area of the screens is more than three times the size of the previous installations and clarity has been significantly improved.

The redevelopment of the Northern Stand of the MCG between 2002 and 2006 reaffirmed our standing as one of the world’s greatest sporting icons. About 55 per cent of the ground – embracing the Ponsford and Olympic Stands and the MCC Members Pavilion – was rebuilt.

We are also currently working with global technology giant Siemens to design and implement an energy efficiency upgrade to significantly reduce the environmental impact of the MCG. The project will see the stadium reduce its carbon emissions by 19 per cent in just 12 months.

What was your main focus when thinking about design?

Numerous factors are taken into consideration when assessing stadium build and design. While getting the stands, seating areas and fan amenities right is integral, there are plenty of other stakeholders to consider – for example, for the players and sports officials, the MCG playing surface is a vital consideration.

Given the volume and variety of events played at the MCG, a versatile surface that enables the stadium to switch from one sport to another in a short period of time is required. The venue also regularly converts from event mode to normal weekday business mode, with up to 100 event days scheduled in any calendar year.

What are the main factors that prevent a perfect design?

The stadium’s history and status makes it one of the highest profile buildings in Australia.

The MCG has outstanding heritage values. In December 2005, the MCG was included in the National Heritage List so that these values can be protected for generations to come. Moreover, Yarra Park is also heritage-listed so any works that might impact the park need to be approved by Heritage Victoria.

The MCG is also a very public facility – everyone has a vested interest in it. Along with the usual considerations with regards to facility maintenance, its global profile from a tourism and world-class sporting event perspective places additional pressure on ensuring everything works.

What design features do you feel separate your stadium from any other?

Ask any Victorian and they’ll be aware of the stadium’s status as the home of Australian rules football and cricket. However, the MCG plays host to so much more, accommodating soccer, rugby, concerts, open days, charity events, dinners and many more activities. Add in a year-round function centre, our popular MCG tours and a successful, world-class sports museum inside the stadium, and there is much to offer.

In my opinion, access to the MCG is also unparalleled, whether you’re coming by foot, train, tram or vehicle. Within the precinct sits the home of a tennis grand slam at the Rod Laver Arena, and AAMI Park.

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