Work commenced in earnest today (Wednesday) on the construction of the new-look Sydney Football Stadium, with the New South Wales government maintaining it will be ready in time to host the National Rugby League’s (NRL’s) 2022 Grand Final.

The first slab of what will be a further 40,000m³ of concrete was poured at the site, with acting Minister for Sport, Geoff Lee, stating the government is committed to delivering on its pledge to have the 42,500-capacity venue, known as Allianz Stadium for commercial reasons, ready a month ahead of the Grand Final in October 2022.

“We’ve always made the commitment that it will be ready for the 2022 NRL Grand Final,” Lee said, according to the News.com.au website. “It’s absolutely on track according to our schedule.”

The project is part of what has been a controversial masterplan to overhaul Sydney’s sporting venues. In May, the NSW government announced that it would no longer proceed with plans to upgrade ANZ Stadium, with funds to be redirected towards job-creating infrastructure projects in a bid to boost the local economy amid COVID-19.

ANZ Stadium had been due to undergo redevelopment as part of the wider infrastructure project in Sydney that will also result in the rebuilding of Allianz Stadium. While the government said that the refurbishment of ANZ Stadium, also known as Stadium Australia, was a sensible project backed by the people of New South Wales, the current health and economic climate meant the project “no longer made sense”.

Speaking today, Lee said the pandemic will not impact on the Allianz Stadium schedule, despite the use of staggered shift times and social distancing rules on site. He added that more than 800 jobs will be created over the next two years to help build the stadium.

“(Construction group) John Holland has done a remarkable job,” Lee said. “COVID hasn’t slowed it down. It’s on track at the moment. This is about jobs, jobs and more jobs. It’s about creating jobs in the times of pandemic.”

Earlier in May it was reported that Allianz Stadium was facing delays that could see its staging of the 2022 Grand Final come into question. An online community forum held by New South Wales’ Infrastructure NSW body and John Holland revealed an updated construction timetable that outlined a “technical completion” in July 2022, but full completion not set until the end of quarter three, or the end of September.

In December, the government selected Chinese-owned John Holland to deliver the new Sydney Football Stadium, as it emerged that the price tag for the project had risen by Aus$99m (£54.4m/€60.3m/$71.5m).

In July 2019, 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.

While John Holland was awarded the contract to build the new stadium for Aus$735m, the total estimated cost, factoring in demolition and contingency costs, in December was said to have shot up to Aus$828m. In its election manifesto, the government had pledged to complete the project for Aus$729m.

Melbourne has long been looked upon as the sports and events capital of Australia, but Lee said the new Allianz Stadium will further enhance Sydney’s pulling power. “Whether it’s the AFL Grand Final or another big blockbuster, we want to see it here,” he said.

“We welcome the AFL Grand Final in Sydney, it should be the natural home as well as the NRL Grand Final.”

Image: John Holland