New Allianz Stadium likely to host Bledisloe Cup game: Castle

International
by Iain Payten

The Wallabies are set to play the All Blacks at Moore Park for the first time in 24 years when the new Allianz Stadium is re-built and back open for business in 2022.

Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle revealed the likely staging of the Bledisloe Cup clash at the unveiling of the design plans for the new Allianz Stadium on Friday.

After much debate and political warfare, the NSW Government committed to a $729 million rebuild of Allianz Stadium, as part of a stadiums strategy that has also seen a new Parramatta Stadium being built, and plans for a $700-plus million refurbishment of ANZ Stadium as well.

Wrapped in a bronze facade and with a hi-tech roof that can be lit in a home team's colours, the new Allianz Stadium will hold 45,000 spectators and will boast far better game-day facilities for fans than the run-down old version.

The stadium - designed by the same architects who created the original in 1988 - will also have upgraded change room capacity, with facilities that are specifically tailored to be female-friendly.

With the old Allianz stadium not meeting building code and safety standards, Rugby Australia put their support behind the proposal to knock down and re-build; which NSW Sports Minister Stuart Ayres said came in at almost the same price as a re-furbishment.

Castle said there would be a large number of benefits for rugby in the impressive new stadium.

“From a fan experience point of view, the Waratahs will have a world-class stadium to play in, which is important,” Castle told RUGBY.com.au.

“Our Sydney Sevens event, which we have here in NSW, it’s a great location for us, in the future for our Sydney sevens. And also for us, that high tier Wallaby content, for a fan experience to have a great world-class stadium to experience that in is really important.

“But equally we now have a stadium that allows our back of house operations and our athletes to have a great experience, and dress in changing rooms that are appropriate for high performance athletes.”

It is expected demolition will begin on Allianz Stadium in December and the new stadium will be opened in early 2022.

Having a brand new stadium in Moore Park will no doubt raise questions about whether Rugby Australia would think about taking Bledisloe Cup games back to the east, as was once customary.

Castle said the answer is yes, but only temporarily.

Bigger venues bring bigger revenues but with ANZ Stadium not likely to be available in 2022, the Wallabies look likely to play an inbound July Test at the new Allianz stadium and then host the All Blacks in Moore Park for the first time since 1998.

“That’s the plan, at this stage,” Castle said.

“Certainly the indications we have had from the stadia around availability and when they’re going to come back online, the plan is for this to be (the venue) in mid-2022.

“Our aspiration will always be to get a (Bledisloe) crowd that gets to 80,000 and where we can host that is ANZ Stadium.

“But the reality is because of the transition of ANZ Stadium into Allianz Stadium as far as construction goes, we will probably have to have a Bledisloe Cup Test match here at the new stadium, which will be fantastic and be a great experience.”

Castle said the new Allianz Stadium would also allow the Sydney Sevens to have another “re-birth”, after the tournament spends a few years in Sydney’s west.

It will be held at Olympic Park next February and there is some potential for Parramatta Stadium to host it in future years, too.

Castle welcomed the changes in dressing room facilities to cater for female teams but also the fact that Allianz Stadium will now have four change rooms, instead of two, and open up the potential for double and triple-headers.

“It’s just the way it should be, in modern stadia. And that’s really important. But it’s not just about female athletes, it’s about the ability to run multiple games,” Castle said. 

“In the configuration, you could run an under 16s, under 18s, under 20s, Wallaroos into Wallabies and because there are enough rooms to accommodate them, you are not having athletes running down hallways with bags under their arms or getting changed in bathrooms and that sort of thing.”

A pre-sale in WA for tickets to the Bledisloe Cup at Perth’s new Optus Stadium was swamped this week, and corporate hospitality is all-but sold out as well.

Castle said that was evidence that new stadia are vital.

“We are very happy with that and that’s a combination of people wanting to see the content but it also very much wanting to have an experience in the new Perth stadium, and that’s the proof point why this new stadium is important,” she said.

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