MCG set for renovation amid crowded stadium scene

More than Aus$50m (£28m/€31m/$35m) is set to be spent on upgrading the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) over the next year as the venue strives to maintain its status in the increasingly competitive Australian stadium market.

Stuart Fox, chief executive of the Melbourne Cricket Club, told local newspaper The Age that renovation work at the iconic ground is necessary for it to keep pace with newer venues such as Perth’s Optus Stadium.

The MCG hosts the annual Boxing Day Test and Fox also revealed that the MCC is weighing up the possibility of hosting a day-night Test. Optus Stadium, which opened last January, has expressed an interest in becoming the new home of the Boxing Day Test but Fox is confident the fixture will remain at its long-term home.

Fox told The Age: “We are in discussions with Cricket Australia. They are progressing. Hopefully in the New Year, we can work towards a new content arrangement that will lock down the Boxing Day Test.

“Why would you want to take it away from one of the most iconic stadiums in the world that has the capacity to bring 250,000 to 300,000 people through the gates over the five days? I don’t know why you would want to ever explore taking that away.

“I certainly don’t think it is going anywhere and Cricket Australia have said that. We are, obviously, working on a new arrangement with them that will unfold in the new year but it’s a very competitive landscape across Australia. You would expect rival stadiums to be pitching for your content and that happens.”

On the possibility of the MCG hosting a day-night Test, Fox said the MCC has “pondered” what it would look like. The day-night Test has been held in Adelaide for three consecutive years and this year it will head to Brisbane.

Fox said: “This traditional (Boxing Day) slot has worked pretty well and it’s really not our call – we are a venue for hire and Cricket Australia will determine those factors. We have pondered on it, whether we would ever make a play for it, we haven’t discussed that in any sort of detail. We have traditionally enjoyed the current slot.”

The MCG opened back in 1853 and has a current capacity of 100,000, making it the largest stadium in Australia. Fox is aware of the stadium’s need to innovate and revealed that a number of upgrades are planned for 2019.

“The MCG is always going to be special but I watch with great interest about stadia development. We have just got to stay ahead of the game,” Fox said.

“We can’t let this asset age and we have got a lot of capital works planned – a new PA system, progressing to LED sports lighting, we have got a number of public bars and catering facilities to be upgraded. I think we will spend well over Aus$50m in the next financial year on the stadium. I think it’s (about) being competitive and relevant across the stadia landscape.”

Image: Richard Munckton