Great Southern Stand rebuild to help retain sports capital crown

A major upgrade of the Great Southern Stand has been on the cards for several years because the stand was built in 1992 with an anticipated lifespan of about 40 years.

The MCC is a growing wary of issues including limited disability access, particularly on level four; a dearth of food and beverage options; outdated seating; and congestion at entry and exit points.

The Great Southern Stand was built in 1992 and underwent a minor upgrade in 2012.Credit:Michael Wilson

“Most of the industry knows it’s old. It’s not broken but it’s not great, ”said one MCC source.

“The stand doesn’t cope as well functionally with huge crowds. If you were to let it go and nobody did anything, I think Victoria would have a genuine risk of losing major events. ”

Sources said early findings from the feasibility study preferred a rebuild over a refurbishment of the existing stand, which would be cheaper but would not allow for a complete modernization of the facilities.

The Victorian government, emboldened by its agreement with the AFL to host every grand final until 2057holds responsibility for significant infrastructure work at the MCG and would be expected to foot the majority of the bill.

Victorian Tourism, Sports and Events Minister Martin Pakula's department will complete the feasibility study.

Victorian Tourism, Sports and Events Minister Martin Pakula’s department will complete the feasibility study.Credit:Penny Stephens

In response to questions from The Age, a government spokesman confirmed the feasibility work had so far been undertaken and funded by the MCC.

“We will always work with stadium management to assess the condition of our major venues and have a strong track record of delivering stadium upgrades across the state,” he said.

The MCC declined to comment.

Sources close to the process said any increase to capacity would be minor, probably 5000 or less.

The Great Southern Stand underwent a $ 55 million facelift in 2012, with $ 30 million paid by the state government and $ 25 million by the MCC.

A full rebuild would outstrip the $ 465 million spent redeveloping the Northern Stand, host to the members’ facilities, before the 2006 Commonwealth Games.

The plan coincides with other states pouring funding into stadium upgrades, with the aim of attracting national and international major events.

The Western Australian government spent $ 1.8 billion to open Perth’s 60,000-seat Optus Stadium, the country’s newest ground that opened in 2018 and hosted last year’s AFL grand final with Victoria still in lockdown. Among the amenities are two display screens measuring 10 meters by 33 meters and cup-holders in every seat.

Perth's 60,000-capacity Optus Stadium held the 2021 AFL grand.

Perth’s 60,000-capacity Optus Stadium held the 2021 AFL grand. Credit:AFL Photos

The NSW government is spending more than $ 800 million rebuilding the 45,000-capacity Sydney Football Stadium, while the Gabba in Brisbane will be upgraded from 42,000 to 50,000 seats at a cost of $ 1 billion in time for the 2032 Olympics.

The MCG has faced two years of cancellations and reduced crowds due to COVID-19, but will again be allowed to host full stadiums when the AFL season begins next month.

Another MCC source said: “You’ll soon have three venues that can make the MCG look pretty old and tired.”


Sports business expert Sam Duncan said the modern game-day experience relied on amenities such as bars, restaurants and meeting spots.

“Historically, things like where you would eat and drink occurred outside the stadium,” said Dr Duncan, an academic with Melbourne’s Holmesglen Institute.

“Now they’re often occurring inside, and the new Northern Stand caters for that. The Southern Stand, which absolutely needs a refresh, does not. ”

Explaining the importance of state-of-the-art facilities, Dr Duncan cited the example of an Ashes cricket series.

“Melbourne would always host a match but if that suddenly went from five to four fixtures, each candidate would be assessed on how contemporary their stadium is,” he said.

“If the MCG is the jewel in the crown and the crown is seeing itself as the sporting capital of the country with all the economic benefits of it, it is a no-brainer to ensure that the crown is as shiny and attractive as possible.”

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