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Record crowd marks debut of new-look GMHBA Stadium

Featured image credit: Kardinia Park Stadium Trust

GMHBA Stadium welcomed a record crowd of 39,352 on Saturday as AFL Aussie rules team the Geelong Cats marked the culmination of what has been a two-decade redevelopment project with an opening round win.

The Cats defeated St Kilda 10.16 (76) to 9.14 (68) with the new Joel Selwood Stand debuting at the venue otherwise known as Kardinia Park. The new stand is part of the stadium precinct’s Stage 5 Redevelopment, which has boosted venue capacity to 40,000.

The Victoria Government’s A$142m (£73.2m/€85.6m/$93.2m) investment in Stage 5 has delivered the venue’s largest-ever stand at a capacity of 14,000, plus a new Fred Flanagan Function Room, a new media centre, the Argyle Bar, AFL-standard unisex change rooms and other key amenities.

The stand also notably includes room for 2,300 standing patrons, with other major Australian sporting venues having adopted an all-seater strategy in recent years.

A new Geelong Sports Museum, and a new Barwon Regional Cricket Centre and indoor cricket hub, are also soon to be completed as part of the redevelopment, while the new northern plaza will be named Djilang Plaza, honouring Geelong’s First Peoples.

Along with AFL games, the new-look GMHBA Stadium will host T20 cricket, football, concerts and other community activities. More than 120 full-time jobs were created during construction of the Stage 5 project, with the stadium remaining operational throughout.

Construction on the redevelopment – managed and delivered by the Kardinia Park Stadium Trust – is a culmination of five separate stages of upgrades, with the Victorian Government investing A$121m in the first four stages between 2003 and 2017.

BESIX Watpac was confirmed as the project builder for the Stage 5 expansion, which has upped capacity from 35,000, back in August 2021. Delivery of the final stage was delayed by almost a year after defects were detected in imported steel.

The 20-year scheme has cost A$340m in total, with the state responsible for the majority of it through a contribution of around A$260m. Other funding has come from the federal government, local council, the AFL and the Cats.