Western Melbourne Group (WMG), the parent company of Western United FC, has announced that initial work on the A-League football club’s new stadium project is set to commence in the week beginning October 25, but it has met stiff opposition over plans to utilise Lakeside Stadium as a temporary home for the 2021-22 season.

In what WMG described as an “important milestone” in the progress of Wyndham City Stadium and its surrounding precinct, early works on the site will commence next month, mainly related to access for construction vehicles.

The early works can proceed while the stadium and the surrounding precinct’s Concept Master Plan – which was submitted to the state government in July – is being approved. Due to various factors pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic, refreshed timeframes have been established for the project.

WMG chairman Jason Sourasis said: “We thank all of our stakeholders, members and fans for their unwavering support as we continue to work hard on delivering a world-class precinct.

“Over the past two pandemic affected years, the club has grown enormously to not only field an A-League team but to include a youth academy with two teams playing in the Victorian NPL, securing a (women’s) W-League licence for the 2022-23 season, the establishment of a women’s development program, as well as frame football and powerchair teams. 

“Whilst the planning process has taken longer than we had hoped, it is vitally important we get the masterplan for the whole precinct right from the start.

“The precinct will allow for the continued growth of our sporting organisation as we expand our academies and pathways further, as well as building a sporting centrepiece for the rapidly growing population in the west of Melbourne.

“This project will shift the professional sporting landscape, as it is the first of its kind in our country. In addition to the sporting legacy, our project gives the west of Melbourne a social and economic boost, which is much needed in these challenging times.”

WMG received initial planning permission from the state of Victoria for its new stadium back in January. The planning approval allowed detailed design of the stadium and development to be finalised and construction timelines to be determined.

The development is set to be the first major sports stadium owned by a professional football club in Australia. The 15,000-seat stadium will be the centrepiece of a broader development that links sports, commercial and residential precincts.
 
The development, being undertaken by WMG and Wyndham City Council, will turn approximately 70 hectares of land in Tarneit into a mixed-use precinct comprising of sport, entertainment, commercial, residential and community uses. 

In December 2018, key stakeholders behind the successful bid to bring an A-League expansion franchise to Western Melbourne revealed further details concerning their new stadium plans, which they say will be a “game-changer” not just for football, but for Australian sport as a whole.

WMG has pledged to develop the first football-specific stadium in Australia. Located in Wyndham, 25km west of Melbourne’s central business district, the stadium has been handed a price tag of Aus$150m (£79.6m/€93.2m/$109.2m) and will represent the first public-private partnership utilised to develop a sports facility in the country.

Wyndham Council has granted WMG a parcel of land in exchange for them funding the stadium development, along with associated commercial and residential buildings, in an effort to boost an under-utilised area.

Western United played its 2020-21 home games at AAMI Park in Melbourne, GMHBA Stadium in Geelong, Mars Stadium in Ballarat and UTAS Stadium in Launceston, along with one match at Sydney’s Leichhardt Oval.

United today (Thursday) said it has added Lakeside Stadium, Albert Park to its 2021-22 home ground roster alongside Ballarat, Geelong, and Launceston.

United said seven home matches will be played at Lakeside Stadium, which was selected after what the club claimed was a “rigorous search” for the best solution. United said it had limited options for the season due to the lack of rectangular stadiums in Melbourne, and the requirement that stadiums must meet the minimum A-League venue standards.

United said it was keen to continue playing at AAMI Park as per the 2020-21 season, but this option was heavily opposed by cross-town rivals Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City, despite being the only rectangular stadium in Melbourne that meets all requirements to host an A-League game.

Lakeside Stadium is the home of National Premier Leagues outfit South Melbourne FC – one of Australia’s most successful football clubs. It has voiced its opposition to United’s announcement and intention to fight any such move.

South Melbourne said: “South Melbourne considers Western United to be a direct competitor in the Melbourne, Victorian and Australian football market. Their acceptance to the A-League was based largely on the commitment to having a purpose-built football stadium constructed in Melbourne’s west.

“It is approaching three years since the A-League expansion clubs were announced and construction works have still not commenced. Western United’s use of Lakeside Stadium is not acceptable and South Melbourne FC will vigorously oppose any such plans.

“South Melbourne can confirm that it will be exercising all rights to prevent Western United FC from playing A-League matches at Lakeside Stadium.”

Image: Western Melbourne Group