AN upgraded 30,000-seat WIN Stadium could host half of the proposed Southern A-League franchise’s fixtures, as the high-powered consortium ramps up its expansion push.
The Southern Expansion group, headed by high profile football identities Les Murray and Craig Foster, has begun preliminary discussions with state and local governments regarding it’s plans for new stadium infrastructure to support their bid.
Drawing on the US Major League Soccer model, the plan involves constructing a new purpose-built stadium in the Sutherland area and a potential whole-scale upgrade of the WIN Entertainment precinct.
Backed by Chinese construction giant JiaYuan Group, the plan would see the capacity of WIN Stadium increased to 30,000 in order to be a regular home A-League and W-League venue for the franchise.
Southern Expansion CEO Chris Gardiner said that, while the process is “very much” in the preliminary phase, the group intends to meet with sports minister Stuart Ayres and Wollongong Council in the near future to discuss possibilities for the site.
“This [bid] was always geared around what was the future of professional clubs in the A-League and we’ve always been of the view that that means controlling your own stadium that’s fit for purpose,” Gardiner said.
“The case made strongly by Football South Coast, is that we should consider WIN Stadium and play at least half our games in the [Illawarra] area.
“We’ve very cursorily run our eyes over it and, what we will do, is sit down with council and the state government and explore what's possible.
“Our vision is for a 30,000 seat stadium and we’re fair dinkum in saying ‘let’s look at this, let’s talk to all the stakeholders and see what could happen here’.
“Our backers [JiaYuan Group] have got the money if the calculations are right and we can develop that site properly.”
Gardiner said the bid – which is set to go head to head with a stand-alone Wollongong Wolves bid based out of the same stadium – was keen to explore options for the redevelopment of the entire WIN entertainment precinct.
“This group is going to create a football institution and we’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars being put into infrastructure in the region,” Gardiner said.
“That’s the strength of this bid. We don’t want to just add seats to that stadium, we want to make it work as a convention and entertainment centre.
“Now it’s up to state government and council to tell us what we can do.”
Foster, the bid’s head of football, addressed a gathering of potential stakeholders at NSW Parliament House on Wednesday, outlining the group’s plans.
It included the establishment of Australia’s first free training academies, building A-League and W-League pathways and new training facilities in the region.
Other prospective franchises based out of Geelong, Ipswich and Tasmania are shaping their bids around the construction of new stadiums.
Canberra, South Melbourne, Dandenong and the Wolves are also in the expansion race.
Football Federation Australia has declared A-League expansion won't happen until at least the 2018-19 season.