A concept design for an AFL stadium at Macquarie Point.

Tasmanian premier rubbishes suggestions AFL stadium cannot be built

Quick read

In short: Tasmania’s AFL dream hinges on the construction of a 23,000-seat, roofed stadium at Hobart’s Macquarie Point.
But growing concern around the geo-technical properties of the site have led to questions over whether or not the stadium can be physically built.
There’s also speculation the government will need to re-negotiate the roof aspect of the stadium deal
What’s next? A Macquarie Point precinct plan, which will provide further detail about the proposed stadium, will be revealed next month.

The Tasmanian government insists a roofed stadium at Macquarie Point can, and will, be built amidst growing geo-technical, height and engineering concerns.

On Saturday, Premier Jeremy Rockliff dismissed suggestions that a 23,000-seat, roofed stadium could not be built on the site at a price tag of $715 million, declaring his government had “factored in” potentially problematic site conditions, and had “contingency” for build and cost overruns “should they be required.”

The premier said he was aware of a 2015 report compiled by Geotechnical and Environmental Engineering firm Douglas Partners for the Macquarie Point Development Corporation (MPDC), that found fill on the site had “poor geotechnical properties”.

It said that heavier structures more than one to two storeys high would require piles to be driven 18 metres deep into bedrock.

“All of these have been factored in and considered and we will work through engineering matters as we well know,” he said.

“I’m excited about the build and getting on with the job.

“The only thing in the way of our own AFL and AFLW team is the knockers and the blockers.”

Macquarie Point and the Hobart CBD from the air, including the location of the proposed AFL stadium. April 2023.(ABC News: Maren Preuss)

In May, the government signed an agreement with the AFL that committed it to constructing a 23,000-seat, roofed stadium at Macquarie Point, as part of its deal for a license to play in the AFL and AFLW from 2028.

The premier said he rejected the notion that the 2015 report cast doubt on the suitability of Macquarie Point as a site for the new stadium.

“I would not agree with that. We’ve factored in all the challenges, and we’ve got contingency, of course,” he said.

A spokesperson for Macquarie Point Development Corporation (MPDC), which received the report in 2015, said extensive geotech investigations had been undertaken since remediation of the site began that year, and that “these do not infer that a stadium development would be unstable or could not proceed.”

The MPDC also dispelled concerns from the state’s Labor opposition about groundwater at a depth of 2.5 metres, and that the south-west corner of the site “is at significant risk of level 4 contamination, the highest EPA level.”

“Remediation of the part of the site known as audit area 6 will commence early next year and will involve the removal of about 12,000 cubic meters of contaminated material, with a further 3,000 cubic metres of ‘tar-impacted material being treated in-situ’,” they said.

“At the completion of works on site, there will be no areas higher than level 2 contamination.”

In state parliament on Thursday, Minister for Stadia Nic Street was unable to confirm the roof would be included as part of the build, as per the government’s licence agreement with the AFL.

It fuelled speculation that the government was considering ditching the roof, in order to lower the height of the prospective stadium, and to potentially decrease the structure’s weight.

‘It will have a roof’: Rockliff

In response to questions from the ABC earlier this week, a government spokesperson guaranteed the stadium would be built with a roof, while on Friday the premier shut down suggestions the roof was open to negotiation, and said the roof would stay.

“It’s in the agreement. So yes,” he said.

Asked why Mr Street declined to make the guarantee in parliament, Mr Rockliff replied: “Perhaps [because] it was completely obvious, because it’s in the agreement. It will have a roof.”

But Labor remains unconvinced the government can deliver the 23,000-seat stadium at the prescribed cost, given the geo-technical properties of the Macquarie Point site and the requirement of a roof.

“The concern we’ve got is that we want an AFL team, but it seems more and more unlikely and unrealistic that you can actually build the stadium that they want to build on that site,” Labor’s Dean Winter said.

A concept design for an AFL stadium at Macquarie Point.

The government signed a deal in May with the AFL to build a roofed stadium at Macquarie Point as part of Tasmania’s entry to the national league.(Supplied: AFL)

“A design with a roof will require the stadium to be at least 40 metres tall,” he said.

“This is not a matter of belief as the premier wants to say it is, it’s a matter of engineering and finance and the question is ‘can you build a stadium with a roof on it for $715m on that site?’ and the answer is pretty clearly no.”

“Yet, that is what is in the AFL deal, and that is what this team hangs on.”

Official artist impressions or detailed designs of the stadium are yet to be produced, with the project still subject to parliamentary approval via the project of state significance process.

The stadium roof, if constructed, will likely be a translucent ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) structure, similar to that on Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr stadium.

Earlier this week, the Tasmanian AFL club unveiled its nine-person board and revealed that foundation memberships for the team would be on sale from early next year.

A precinct plan for Macquarie Point, which has been subject to public consultation since earlier this year, is set to be delivered next month.




Author: Russell White