The Western Australian government is considering going back on an initial decision to issue an attendance cap at Optus Stadium for a potential Big Bash League Twenty20 cricket semi-final.
The 60,000-seat stadium in Perth is due to officially open to the public this weekend before hosting its first major sporting event on January 28 – the one-day international cricket match between Australia and England.
The stadium is due to serve as the home of BBL team the Perth Scorchers. The team is currently second in the table as the 2017-18 regular season draws to a close, and it looks likely that the Scorchers will have a home semi-final to play on February 1 or 2.
Optus Stadium is due to have a capacity of 55,000 for cricket matches, but earlier this week Transport Minister Rita Saffioti suggested that the attendance would be capped at around 40,000 for the semi-final. Saffioti said the cap would be put in place due to construction delays on the nearby Matagarup Footbridge, which will likely lead to an increased demand on public transport.
Former Liberal Premier Colin Barnett criticised the decision, which led to widespread public outcry. “Big Bash (League) gets a huge following, it’s a great spectacle, and people will quite (probably) be angry if we’ve got 15,000 to 20,000 empty seats when they could clearly be used,” he said, according to The West Australian newspaper.
“(Rita Saffioti’s) job is to work out how to get people there, not to stop people going to the game.”
Barnett added: “If there is a little bit of congestion before the start of the game, so be it. That is far better than having people who would want to go and see the Scorchers if they were in the finals miss out. How absurd would Perth look if the brand-new stadium (had) 15,000 to 20,000 empty seats — it’s just ridiculous.”
Saffioti has now said that the government would consider staggering arrivals at the venue to cope with the expected demand that would come with a 55,000-capacity crowd.
“If we can find some solutions, in particular, the early arrival of a significant amount of people, we’ll see what we can do,” she said, according to the PerthNow news website.
Responding to Barnett’s comments, she added: “My job is to get people there on time.”
The final decision will be made after January 27, when the Scorchers will know for certain whether or not they have secured a semi-final spot.
The Matagarup Footbridge is not expected to open until May.
Image: Optus Stadium