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NSW Government weighing up roof for Accor Stadium

Featured image credit: Storm machine/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size

New South Wales Sports Minister, Steve Kamper, has stated that the prospect of a roof for Sydney’s Accor Stadium is back on the agenda, admitting he had been hugely impressed by the experience afforded by Allegiant Stadium’s landmark hosting of NRL Premiership games at the weekend.

The home of NFL franchise the Las Vegas Raiders hosted back-to-back Premiership fixtures to open the 2024 season, with the event marking the first National Rugby League (NRL) games held outside of Oceania.

Accor Stadium, which this week retained rights to the NRL Grand Final, has previously been linked to the addition of a permanent fixed roof and Kamper told the Daily Telegraph: “Allegiant has a covered, basically glass roof, which isn’t totally clear so therefore you don’t see clear sky. That also protects from the hot sun, which is relevant to Accor.

“I had a look at what type of roof they have at Allegiant and how it potentially would suit Accor. A roof at Accor is something we’re seriously looking at. When they built Accor, it had provisions for a roof, whereas Allianz Stadium (at Moore Park) didn’t.”

The logistical challenges created by the lack of a roof were again demonstrated last month as lightning storms delayed, and threatened to cancel, a concert by Taylor Swift. Kamper said: “I remember the first night at Taylor Swift and we thought there were going to be massive thunderstorms. Everything was out of our control.

“I remember thinking: ‘Oh my God, what are we going to do?’ We were just lucky the storm clouds cleared. If you have a facility that can’t protect against that, then there’s a great chance that you could lose a lot of great performers and content that is so valuable for our economy.

“(A stadium roof) is also valuable in the sense that it’s great for our community so they can be there to witness and experience great artists we can attract because we have the covered protection. That’s key and has reinforced to me that it’s something we are definitely talking about and looking at.”

The New South Wales Government in November opted to bring the operation of Sydney’s Accor and CommBank Stadiums in-house with the news that the contract of management and hospitality services company, VenuesLive, would not be extended.

The NSW Government is now operating the two stadia, which it owns, through its Venues NSW agency.

In May 2020, the Government announced that it would no longer proceed with plans to upgrade Accor Stadium, with funds to be redirected towards job-creating infrastructure projects in a bid to boost the local economy amid COVID-19.

Accor Stadium, then known as ANZ Stadium, had been due to undergo redevelopment as part of the wider infrastructure project in Sydney that resulted in the rebuilding of Allianz Stadium. The future of Accor Stadium has been unclear since the announcement and New South Wales Premier, Chris Minns, said any roof project would be cost dependent.

“I don’t want to say we’re not going ahead with it, but like all these things, it’s not my money, it’s taxpayer money,” he told broadcaster Nine’s Today programme.

“We need to make sure it’s spent wisely and we don’t have the price tag on it yet. I don’t have an announcement… but we’re looking at it closely.”

Business Sydney executive director Paul Nicolaou has backed the addition of a roof, stating it would help Accor Stadium attract more major music acts and international sporting events. “This could be a game changer of massive proportions should we get a roof over one of our stadiums,” he said.

“It means we’ll be weather-proofed in the future – at the moment we’re not. It’ll be a game changer for Sydney in getting major sports and entertainers to Australia.”

Nicolaou has posted on LinkedIn regarding the potential project, creating debate amongst users. Darren Burden, executive director of Hong Kong’s Kai Tak Sports Park venture, said: “I was the project director for Infrastructure NSW for the business case to redevelop Stadium Australia back in 2018-19, which coincided with Taylor Swift’s Reputation tour in Nov 2018 at what is now Accor Stadium.

“The show was delayed a couple of hours whilst a thunderstorm passed through. The next few days media coverage was all about the need for a roof and the brilliant team we had on the design team were already providing that as an option in the business case.

“It was a very detailed and thorough business case… and ultimately the NSW Govt made a decision not to proceed. Roll forward five years or so and history seems to be repeating itself!”