Design recommendations for the $300 million stadium in Parramatta will be put forward at a meeting of major stakeholders on Wednesday.
It is understood one of the key ones will be to demolish the Parramatta swimming centre to transform it into a stadium forecourt similar to Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.
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The recommendation, which will allow Venues NSW to incorporate retail space, is expected to receive mixed reaction, with Parramatta City Council likely to want a new swimming centre at a different site.
PricewaterhouseCoopers, commissioned by the state government to prepare a thorough report into the design of the stadium, has been working closely with the Western Sydney Wanderers and Parramatta Eels as well as fans.
Representatives from the National Rugby League, Football Federation Australia and the Australian Rugby Union will also attend the meeting.
It will be the final meeting before the government puts the project out to tender.
It is understood Populous, who designed Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, are one of the leading contenders having also worked on Emirates Stadium in London, Etihad Stadium in Melbourne and the new Wembley Stadium.
It is understood the Barangaroo landscape architects will also do work on the area between Parramatta Leagues Club and the stadium.
Once the design of the stadium is completed it will be presented to the major stakeholders and put on public display to gather feedback before construction begins in September.
The demolition of the existing stadium will begin after this year's NRL season, with March 2019 earmarked as the completion date of the venue. Parramatta Leagues Club hopes to begin work on a multi-level car park (1000 spaces) mid-way through this year.
One of the major discussion points has also been the corporate capabilities of a new venue, with the Parramatta Eels providing examples of best practice from Sun Life Stadium (home of NFL club Miami Dolphins), Barclays Centre (New York) and Yankees Stadium (New York).
"We've given a number of examples of what we like from overseas stadiums," Parramatta chief executive John Boulous said.
"That's been a key part of the whole consultation process, asking for examples and photos of what we'd like. I think the users are all on the same page with that."
The major sticking point for the Wanderers revolves around a safe standing zone for active supporter group Red and Black Bloc, trying to find a solution that doesn't impede rugby league fans.
"We need to get the right model so that they can be taken down for the rugby league season and the sight line isn't affected while another tenant is using it," Wanderers chief executive John Tsatsimas said.
More than one wish list: Both the Eels and Wanderers have plans for a developed Pirtek Stadium. Photo: Getty Images
Western Sydney Wanderers
WHAT THEY WANT
– The Wanderers have the second-largest membership base in the A-League (behind Melbourne Victory) and have 2000 people on a waiting list. Stadium restrictions have forced the Wanderers to cap ticketed membership at around 16,500, however they predict a larger home venue will see membership numbers push towards 30,000. While the new stadium is likely to hold between 30,000 and 32,000, the Wanderers want to make sure there is provision to easily expand the stadium into a 35,000-seat venue. "We have every belief that we will grow significantly once that stadium is built," Tsatsimas said. "Our ultimate goal is to sell out the stadium and keep growing."
– Up to 1000 safe standing seats at the northern end of the ground for the club's active supporter group, Red and Black Bloc. It is a concept that has been used in Argentina and Europe – particularly in Germany, where rails give football fans the freedom to support in a more traditional style while preventing crushing or stampedes.
– Grandstands with a steeper gradient. "This will provide a more intimate and engaging match-day experience for the fans,"Tsatsimas said. Both the Wanderers and Eels want the stands to be as close as possible to the playing field.
– Corporate, guest and media facilities that will not only increase the club's profitability, but meet the strict AFC guidelines for Champions League matches. "That's where we fall short significantly right now and it is to the detriment of the club," Tsatsimas said. "There's only one lift up and down," he said. "There are requirements at the AFC level that are very strict in regards to where media and guests sit. We need to be able to cater for that."
– Four dressing rooms instead of two. "That will provide us with the opportunity to play W-League games or Youth League games there beforehand," Tsatsimas said. "It makes it very difficult to get teams in and out, particularly with different genders."
WHERE THEY WILL PLAY
The Wanderers recently surveyed their members on where they want the club to play during the two to three years of construction for the new stadium. The options were Pepper Stadium (Penrith), Campbelltown Sports Stadium, Leichhardt Oval, Belmore Oval, Spotless Stadium and ANZ Stadium. Both Leichhardt and Belmore have since been ruled out. One of the issues the Wanderers face is seating for all 16,500 members, which is only available at ANZ Stadium and Spotless Stadium. Playing at multiple venues will be a logistical nightmare, but it seems the preferred option at this stage will be to play blockbuster matches out of ANZ Stadium. Spotless Stadium is unavailable for six weeks during December and January during the Big Bash League.
WHAT THEY WANT
– The Wanderers safe standing zone remains a topic of debate between the A-League and NRL clubs. While the Eels support Western Sydney's desire to cater for the Red and Black Bloc, they want to ensure any safety railings won't obstruct the views of Eels fans sitting at the northern end of the stadium. "It needs to be a solution that ensures there's no restriction of view," Boulous said. "Come rugby league games, standing up isn't something we promote. It's not something we're supportive of if it inhibits anyone's view."
– The Parramatta Eels have been restricted in growing their corporate base due to the limitations of Pirtek Stadium. That is why the move to ANZ Stadium has been so financially beneficial for the club, who have put plenty of emphasis on the importance of corporate flexibility in their meetings with PwC. They want flexibility around individual suites and shared suites.
– Post-match recovery facilities. The Eels want what the Knights have at Hunter stadium and have requested temperature-controlled baths. "It needs to be state of the art for players not just for fans," Boulous said.
– The Eels also want four change rooms to allow easy transition between the lower grades and NRL teams. "We've asked for dedicated rooms for doctors and physios. At the moment we're all in the one room, so having the opportunity to separate multiple teams from one club is ideal. It would also include an indoor warm-up area," Boulous said.
– Easy changeover from A-League to NRL matches. One of the challenges is the time it takes to transform the venue from a football to rugby league stadium. "At the moment it's all very manual. One of our things is that by flicking a switch the stadium can change over to host different teams and codes. Lots of LED signage, coloured lights that create a theme in the stands that ensure the venue is multi-use. That would be ideal," Boulous said. "When the guys went to Seattle last year they looked at a number of different stadiums and the way they do fan engagement. They saw the capabilities and how clubs were able to benefit from having people more engaged on fan day."
WHERE THEY WILL PLAY
Geographically, the Eels have only three options – ANZ Stadium, Spotless Stadium or Pepper Stadium in Penrith. But you can rule out the last two because you can all but guarantee the Eels will play the majority of their home matches at ANZ Stadium, which they already use for their blockbuster matches. However the move will open the door for the Eels to experiment in non-rugby league territory such as China and the US while their new home is being built.