NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has changed her mind on knocking down Sydney's Olympic stadium

Billy Stickland /Allsport/Getty ImagesCathy Freeman lights the flame at the 2000 Sydney Olympics
  • The Sydney Olympic [ANZ] Stadium will be refurbished into a rectangular venue for $810 million.
  • The announcement overturns last November’s plan to rebuild the venue for $1.3 billion.
  • The $730 million demolition and rebuild of Sydney Football [Allianz] Stadium will proceed as planned.

The 18-year-old Sydney 2000 Olympic stadium has been saved from the wrecking ball, with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian abandoning plans to knock it down and replace it with a new venue as part of the government’s controversial $2 billion plan for Homebush and the Sydney Football Stadium at Moore Park.

The change of heart, which followed widespread questions about the justification for the redevelopment, will save taxpayers $500 million and comes from the presentation of the business case analysis from Infrastructure NSW.

Infrastructure NSW put the cost of rebuilding Homebush at $1.33 billion, another $83 million above the price tag just four months ago.

Berejiklian says the government has “done its homework” on the issue and abandoned plans for a “colosseum-inspired” venue. Instead it will leave the upper tiers of the 80,000 seat site of the Sydney 2000 Olympics in place and spend $810 million refurbishing 46,000 seats at ANZ Stadium to create rectangular field suited to league, union and soccer.

Moore Park’s 30-year-old Allianz Stadium will be knocked down and rebuild with a 45,000 seat capacity at a cost of $729 million, putting the total price tag for the two venues at $1.5 billion.

Berejiklian said refurbishing the seats at Allianz would have cost more than the price of raising and rebuilding the venue.

“We are a Government that does its homework and listens to the public,” Berejiklian said, announcing the backflip on last November’s plan for Olympic stadium.

“Our thorough homework means that we can deliver a world class rectangular stadium at Sydney Olympic Park without knocking down ANZ Stadium, save $500 million, and complete the rebuild two years earlier than previously scheduled.”

The business case analysis by Infrastructure NSW looked at three options for ANZ stadium. They were:

1) remodelling of the lower and mid tier seats as well as the corporate suites;
2) rebuilding the stadium with 70,000 seats; and
3) rebuilding the stadium with 75,00 seats.

It concluded:

The three options had similar Benefit Cost Ratios, but that the options vary significantly in terms of their cost and build time. In particular, the refurbishment option is more than $500 million cheaper than the 75,000 seat “knock down and rebuild” option and could be delivered some 24 months earlier.

The Premier added today that people no longer had to “feel guilty” that the place where Cathy Freeman won her Olympic gold medal in 2000 was being destroyed.

The renovation is expected extend ANZ stadium’s life by 40 years. The new plan has the backing of the NRL, which had threatened to take the rugby league grand final elsewhere without an upgrade, but now has now pledged to hold the season climax at Homebush for the next 25 years.

The renovation is expected to begin in late 2019 and be completed by mid-2021, in time for the NRL grand final that year.

The Allianz Stadium rebuild is expected to get underway later this year for completion in March 2022. The crossover of the two upgrades means the 2020 NRL grand final will be held at the SCG.

The new Allianz stadium will have a predicted 50-year lifespan.

When journalist Peter Fitzsimons, who campaigned against the upgrades because of the cost, including a petition that gathered more than 202,000 signatures , asked the Premier who was responsible for letting Allianz fall into a state of disrepair after just 30 years and whether the SCG Trust would remain in charge of the venue, Berejiklian said the rebuild was a chance to review how to best manage the facility.

Berejiklian argued the government was being open and transparent in its decisions by making the business cases for both stadiums available to the public.

They can be found here.

Today’s announcement is the fourth change of plan for the Coalition and the plan for Homebush is closer to the April 2016 proposal by former premier Mike Baird for a lower cost upgrade.

“I’m not going to deny this is a complicated issue, it’s been a complicated issue for years,” Berejiklian said.

“The difference today is we have done our homework.”

The $1.6 billion Baird plan from two years ago included $350 million for a new stadium at Parramatta, $450 million to refurbish Allianz Stadium and $700 million to convert ANZ Stadium into a 75,000-seat rectangular stadium.

Construction of the 30,000 seat Parramatta stadium is currently underway, with an opening date in mid 2019.

The one constant through the issue is Sports Minister Stuart Ayers, although Baird essentially froze him out of the 2016 plan. Despite the constant changes by the government, Berejiklian said she had “absolute confidence” in her minister

With an election looming next year, and concern growing in Coalition ranks as polls showed a majority of voters were opposed last year’s plan from Ayers based on the cost, the Infrastructure NSW verdict has give the government a get out of jail card on the issue.

The Premier said she was “happy with the balance” in today’s decision, saying it was the first time the business case had been properly checked

“We don’t apologise for listening to the community,” she added.

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