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Sydney Football Stadium construction partner selected amid steep cost increase

The New South Wales Government has selected Chinese-owned construction group John Holland to deliver the new Sydney Football Stadium, as it emerged that the price tag for the controversial project has risen by Aus$99m (£51.7m/€60.9m/$67.8m).

The announcement today (Wednesday) comes after it was reported earlier this month that the project for the venue otherwise known as Allianz Stadium could encounter further delays with the NSW Government yet to finalise an agreement with a construction partner for the development.

In July, the NSW Government was forced to commence a new search for a partner after Lendlease departed the project. Lendlease was appointed as the construction contractor for the project in December 2018 and while it successfully completed demolition work on the existing venue, Sports Minister John Sidoti said the company was no longer able to meet the government’s requirements to rebuild the stadium on the Moore Park site on budget and on time.

Speaking today, John Holland CEO Joe Barr said the company’s experience in delivering large-scale infrastructure projects on time and on budget would ensure taxpayers and fans get a world-class result.

He stated: “We are committed to creating a stadium that is worthy of Sydney’s status as a global city. We believe the new Sydney Football Stadium will be Australia’s premier sporting and entertainment venue, and we can’t wait to get started.

“We have a track record of delivering major city-shaping projects like Sydney Metro Northwest on time and on budget, and we are looking forward to working with the NSW Government and the community to set a new standard for stadium construction.”

Executive general manager of building, David Lehmann, said the John Holland team would draw upon its global experience on stadiums in Australia and overseas to deliver a facility that attracts bigger and better events.

He added: “Our team has been involved in the delivery of major sporting developments such as the SCG’s MA Noble, Don Bradman and Dally Messenger stands, Wembley Stadium and the MCG Great Southern stand, and their expertise will ensure the world-class new stadium is delivered with minimal disruption.

“We will work with stakeholders to make sure fans can move easily and safely through the precinct on Sydney Cricket Ground event days and will be ready in time for the 2022 NRL Grand Final.”

Sydney Football Stadium is part of a wider infrastructure project in the city that has proved to be a contentious issue in recent months. ANZ Stadium, the venue at Sydney Olympic Park also known as Stadium Australia, is also being redeveloped. Indeed, the project proved to be a major issue in March’s state election, with the Labor and Green parties opposing the demolition of Sydney Football Stadium.

The government has today been forced to defend a cost increase for the project, along with the news that the new-look stadium will now not feature one of its key components. While John Holland has been awarded the contract to build the new stadium for Aus$735m, the total estimated cost, factoring in demolition and contingency costs, has shot up to Aus$828m. In its election manifesto, the government had pledged to complete the project for Aus$729m.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian maintained the government has got the best deal for the project, maintaining it will be ready to stage the 2022 NRL Grand Final under the terms of a recent agreement with the National Rugby League. “This is the best price, the best quality and also the best time frame,” Berejiklian said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

“While the estimated total cost for this build is higher than what we originally anticipated, it is much better value than what we would have achieved had we not gone back to the market.”

However, the new stadium will no longer feature a planned LED ‘curtain’ designed to allow the venue to be adapted in capacity by closing off the top tier for events that would attract smaller crowds. This news has led to criticism from the stadium’s key tenants – A-League football club Sydney FC, NRL team Sydney Roosters and Super Rugby franchise NSW Waratahs – who had all maintained this feature was a top priority for them.

The new stadium will hold around 45,000 spectators, with Sydney FC games averaging crowds of approximately 15,000. “Once they announced the funding envelope and the stadium design, the one thing that wasn’t included … was the curtain,” said Sydney FC chief executive Danny Townsend said. “At which point we went, hang on, we only agreed to this if we could operate and function in two modes, and in order to function in two modes, you need to be able to cover one of those modes.”

The Labor party has been quick to respond to the latest development, with leader Jodi McKay stating “the entire project is built on a lie”. She added: “Nothing Gladys Berejiklian says on project costings can ever again be believed. I have no confidence this project will be delivered on time.”

Image: John Holland