The Australian Football League (AFL) has purchased the Etihad Stadium in Melbourne in a deal said to be worth around AUS$200m (£122.5m/$151.5m/€136.0m).
The league's takeover of the venue is set to benefit tenants Essendon, Carlton, North Melbourne, the Western Bulldogs and St Kilda, who will now be freed from the restraints of contracts with the outgoing owners.
The AFL is set to take control of the 53,000-seat venue – also known as the Dockland Stadium – next month. It could have bought the venue for just AUS$30m in 2025, but elected to make the deal nine years early.
It was reported earlier this year that the league is planning a AUS$300m revamp of the precinct which is likely to include a new waterside gateway, open-air bars, parks and a running track.
"Owning Etihad Stadium enables the AFL to continue to strengthen the financial health of several of our Victorian clubs, develop an asset for our whole industry, and commit to being a serious stakeholder in the future of the Docklands precinct," AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said in a statement.
"Stadiums are a vital piece of community and public infrastructure that bring city precincts alive.
"The AFL will continue to operate Etihad Stadium as a multi-purpose entertainment venue hosting AFL matches, other sports, concerts and a broad range of entertainment options.
"Our commitment as owners of Etihad Stadium is to work with government to provide a stadium experience for our fans equal to the best in the world, as well as explore how we can help improve the stadium’s relationship to Docklands and the city."
Discussions continue as to building a second AFL arena in Melbourne, as reported by The Stadium Business.