Sydney's new $729 million football stadium will have trees growing on it, but still no closed roof

NSW GovernmentThe new Sydney Football Stadium will light up with the home team’s colours

When singer Michael Buble delivered the final event at 30-year-old Sydney Football Stadium earlier this month ahead of its demolition to make way for a new $729 million stadium, it was obvious to 33,000 rain-soaked music fans that one simple design feature would truly deliver the audience comfort the NSW Government and SCG Trust say are front-of-mind in their plans for the rebuild.

A retractable roof.

Buble joked that the poncho-clad crowd looked like “millions of condoms”. If he returns in 2022 for another gig in inclement weather and after the NSW government spent nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars of taxpayer money on a new venue, the audience will probably look the same.

Melbourne’s 53,000 seat Docklands stadium has a retractable roof, as does tennis venue Rod Laver Arena. ANZ stadium at Homebush as been toying with the idea for several years, but when NSW Sport Minister Stuart Ayres revealed the design of the new “world class” arena “Sydney has been crying out for for decades” next to the SCG, the one thing many fans had cried out for for decades – shelter from the rain – was once again missing.

Spectators being exposed to the elements was a key criticism of the original late eighties Philip Cox design. The architect gets a chance to redeem himself this time around after his firm, Cox Architects, beat two other finalists with a new design with a “state-of-the-art roof” that lights up underneath and amplifies the stadium noise.

Minister Ayres said the new roof was “one of the most impressive features of this new stadium designed to reflect noise back into the stadium and the whole underside can be lit up in the home team’s colours, creating a colosseum of light and sound”.

NSW GovernmentThe new Sydney Football Stadium looking across Kippax Lake at Moore Park

Projects NSW boss David Richards, part of the jury choosing the winning design, praised the roof’s “creativity”. It stretches to the front row of seats to offer extra protection, although anyone at the Paddington end when a southerly hits knows full well that rain rarely falls vertically.

“Wrapping the skin of the roof around to contain the light and noise spill beyond the stadium was a noticeable feature, as was the terraces on the upper levels to allow for some landscaping,” Richards said.

That means there’ll be trees planted around the top terraces of the stadium.

Ayres, perhaps getting in early on the State of Origin rivalry, said the 45,000 seat stadium will “kick Suncorp Stadium into reserve grade”.

The 52,500 capacity Brisbane stadium was build in 2003 for $280 million.

“Sydney Football Stadium is a stadium for fans that will offer an experience like no other,” he said. “From technology and design to amazing views it’s nothing short of world class.”

NSW GovernmentThe roof in the new Sydney Football Stadium is designed to reflect the sound and increase the atmosphere, as well as covering the seats to the front row.

Cox’s firm has taken the natural environment as inspiration in the design, with a bronze façade reflecting Sydney’s sandstone geology, and the lightweight “cloud-like” roof structure.

“The experience the new Sydney Football Stadium will offer will be of the quality, safety and experience Sydney has been crying out for for decades,” Ayres said.

The design promises more bathrooms to reducing queuing, stand-up bars, terraces on the outside of the stadium and open concourses, as well as improved safety standards – a key issue in the SCG Trust’s arguments for a total rebuild. Mock-ups released to accompany the announcement have the venue’s facilities looking similar to the concessions in the SCG’s $190 million Noble, Bradman and Messenger stands rebuild, completed in 2014.

NSW GovernmentThe new Sydney Football Stadium

While the CBD light rail project is due to be completed ahead of the stadium, with a stop at the Moore Park precinct, Ayres says he hopes fans will make the 1.5km uphill walk to the new venue from Central Station.

While demolition of the current stadium is is now underway ahead of approval of the new development, who’ll build the new structure has yet to be decided.

The rebuild is part of a four-year ongoing controversy about upgrading both this stadium and the former Olympic venue at Homebush.

Just under a year ago, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian shocked many when she announced the government planned to spend $2 billion on demolishing and rebuilding both facilities, having heard former premier Mike Baird’s April 2016 announcement that the SFS would receive lower cost upgrades.

The cost then was $24 million cheaper, at $705 million, than Friday’s new price tag.

The plans for the two venues changed four times, with Berejiklian scrapping the $1.25 billion rebuild of the Sydney Olympic Stadium earlier this year in favour of an $810 million refurbishment.

Here’s what the new Sydney Football Stadium will look like:

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