The City of Greater Dandenong Council has recently employed Deloitte Australia to complete a feasibility review and business case for a 15,000 seated stadium in the heart of the South East – Dandenong – just around the corner from the metro station.
Home to four different clubs across three different sporting codes, AAMI Park has hosted Melbourne City FC crowds since the club’s inception, but fans have begrudgingly shared the venue with our biggest rival, Melbourne Victory, and most recently Western United at times as they build their long-awaited stadium.
No A-League club should have to share their home stadium with a direct opponent, let alone their largest rivals. Could you imagine if Sydney FC began playing their home games at Bankwest Stadium? I highly doubt Western Sydney would be happy about that predicament.
This is where the proposed move to the South East comes in. Below, I will outline three points why this is a massive step forward for our club and our game in this nation.
Establishing Geographical Territory
By bringing the club to the South East community, Melbourne City will be in a great position to profit off the fantastic talent that comes out of the area. Of course, we have seen the region produce elite players in the past with Curtis Good plying his trade at Melbourne City; originally playing his junior years at clubs in Nunawading and Box Hill.
As there are hundreds of clubs spanning across Football Victoria and the Victorian Churches Football Association, Melbourne City will be looking to continue building relationships with those clubs and identifying the greatest prospects that come out of the area.
By becoming the club of the South East, young players will have a professional team to call their own and aspire to become part of. In the years to come, we could have multiple Stefan Colakovski stories - fans becoming players. Young kids won’t have to look far to see a clear pathway to the top, and as a club, we have the resources to ensure we can cover the vast reach of the highly populated area. Already, I have seen Melbourne City partner up with local clubs near me, such as Berwick Churches Soccer Club and Pakenham United FC.
Melbourne City certainly look ready to take hold of the area.
The South East is one of the fasting growing areas in the country, with over one million people living in the region and thousands continuing to move here every year. This incredible rate of growth of the region calls for more infrastructure, more jobs and an increase in investment in the community as a whole – this is where Melbourne City can step in.
Striving to become Melbourne’s second CBD, we have seen office buildings go up, road works take place, and most recently the announcement of an improved Dandenong Railway Station with accessibility changes to “support the vision of re-establishing Dandenong’s city centre as the capital of South East Melbourne” (Gabrielle Williams, State Member of Dandenong).
With a new stadium, this would inject life and an estimated figure of 1000 construction jobs, 350 ongoing jobs and $114 million of annual economic activity from visitors. Not bad for a project dubbed to cost $110 million.
For or against Melbourne City moving to the South East; this would be a huge plus for the community and will draw attention from multiple areas of the country, pushing Melbourne City as a leading sports club in Australia.
Investing in Purposeful Growth
Studies such as “MLS as a Sports Product – the Prominence of the World’s Game in the U.S.” (S Greyser et al.) have found that investments in stadiums and talent academies have been crucial in driving sporting and business quality. The only exception to this is Seattle Sounders who have been able to bring in high attendance figures playing out of an NFL stadium. In the A-League, there has not been much success playing out of AFL stadiums.
Melbourne Victory are not going to be playing out of Marvel Stadium anymore due to the disdain fans, players and clubs have with the venue. Fans are far from the players. Players are not fans of the surface. It is not purpose-built.
Take Brisbane Roar; some of their fans may not love the drive to Redcliffe but playing out of Moreton Daily Stadium has been a revelation for the club. With a smaller stadium, fans feel closer to the players, atmosphere is improved, and the crowd looks fantastic on TV.
A purpose-built stadium in Dandenong would not only be more purpose-built for crowd figures that Melbourne City can grow into, but it would also establish a true home that is our own. As I stated earlier in the article; no more sharing with Victory. Surely that is the goal for any City fan?
Melbourne City could take the next step in setting up important infrastructure to support the independence of football clubs in Australia. Of course, there will be fans that will be disheartened or frustrated with the move if it means it will take longer to get to and from games, but there remain plenty of positive outcomes to be derived from this decision.
Having multiple clubs situated in the middle of the city was never a great plan. Spreading across the vastly populated area of the South East is a brilliant step forward, and a stadium there makes sense for building community and infrastructure that can improve the Australian game for the generations of tomorrow.