Sydney Stadium delay shadow on rugby finals



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Sydney new football stadium May 2020 Image: Cox Architecture/NRL

Uncertainty shrouds the staging of the National Rugby League’s Grand Final in 2022 as the new Sydney Football Stadium in Australia is facing delays.

The new Sydney Football Stadium is an under construction football stadium in Moore Park, Sydney, Australia. It is scheduled to open in mid-2022 as a replacement for the Sydney Football Stadium.

An online community forum held by New South Wales’ Infrastructure NSW body and stadium developer 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.

The New South Wales Government had earlier targeted that the stadium will get going in July 2022. In October last year, the National Rugby League confirmed a long-term deal to keep its Grand Final in Sydney. The pact, which will run until 2046, will see the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) host the showpiece game in 2020 and 2021 before the event moves a few yards north to Sydney Football Stadium, commercially known as Allianz Stadium, in 2022.

However, with the NSW Government announcing recently that it is scrapping the planned redevelopment of Sydney’s ANZ Stadium, so, ANZ is no longer an option for the National Rugby League’s Grand Final.

Media reports stated that the Infrastructure NSW and the National Rugby League is confident of the fact that the 2022 Grand Final will be held at the new Sydney Football Stadium, but notes that any delays to the project would cause a major issue with the stadium scheduled for completion only a week before the event.

Media reports further stated that the National Rugby League has been assured by the State Government that test events will take place ahead of the stadium’s opening.

“The time between technical completion in July 2022 and the 2022 NRL Grand Final will be used for testing, commissioning and operational readiness,” a spokeswoman for NSW Infrastructure added.

Infrastructure NSW also asserted that the COVID-19 pandemic will not come in the way of the stadium project, despite shift times being altered for workers and increased cleaning on site.

“Work is continuing on site and remains on track to be complete in time for the 2022 NRL Grand Final,” a spokeswoman said.

The forum is also said to have presented the latest design for the stadium, including more brick features in an effort to complement the adjacent Sydney Cricket Ground. In December last year, the New South Wales Government selected Chinese-owned construction group John Holland to deliver the new Sydney Football Stadium, as it emerged that the price tag for the controversial project had risen by Aus$99m (£52.1m/€58.8m/$63.5m).

In July, the New South Wales 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 pulled down the structure of 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.

Infrastructure NSW declared recently that the project had achieved a major milestone with the commencement of piling works. The first of the piles going in marked the start of the major structural works for the development. At the time, Infrastructure NSW stressed that the stadium remains on track to be ready to host the 2022 NRL Grand Final.

The grand final, which is usually held in the first week of October, could be the first official game in the stadium.
 

Work delay

The prospect of delays in the construction schedule appear high given Infrastructure NSW also admitted in the community forum there is a possibility of more asbestos being found on the site as works continue.

A small amount of the hazardous material was found late last year, with developer John Holland hiring an occupational hygienist to oversee the site as a result.

“A small amount of contaminated material has been found to date, and has been managed in line with the contractor’s remediation action plan,” a spokeswoman said.

“Over 1500 piles will be drilled up to 33 meters into the ground, to support this world-class structure,”an Infrastructure NSW statement read.

According to their timeline, construction on the basement to concourse level is set to begin next month.

Recently, Acting Sports Minister Geoff Lee was adamant the stadium would be delivered on time – “We want NSW to have the best stadiums in the country and this will be a world-class venue with first-class facilities putting fans closer to the action with the best sightlines.”

“The new Sydney Football Stadium will seat all 42,500 fans undercover to guarantee a fantastic spectator experience,” Lee added.

At the end of 2019, the NSW Government signed John Holland as the developer with a $99 million blowout to the original budget, with the total cost moving from $730 million to $830 million. The cost also does not include an LED curtain, which clubs say was promised to them at the start of the project.

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