By Nick Creely
A world class sport and entertainment venue right in the heart of Greater Dandenong?
That’s the plan if Melbourne’s south-east becomes home to an A-League and W-League club, in what could become one of the great drawcards the region has ever seen.
The prime location of Cheltenham Road, next to Dandenong Train Station, has been confirmed as the site of Team 11’s proposed stadium build, with the world class concept designed by Cox Architecture (designers of Melbourne’s AAMI Park).
It has been initially slated that the capacity would be in the range of 12,000-15,000, with the ability to expand to 20,000 in the future.
The stadium site is less than 100 metre walk from one of Victoria’s busiest train and bus stations and within five kilometres of the Monash Freeway and Eastlink.
The Journal understands that the stadium could cost up to $170 million, but Team 11 are believed to be working on staging options, which could see the stadium built over time, therefore potentially reducing the initial cost to under $100 million.
It is also understood that is likely to be a two-year build period, so it is unlikely it would be up and running until at least the start of the 2020-21 season.
The announcement of the stadium concept is the next major step in the Team11 bid after the Football Federation Australia (FFA) recently announced its expansion plans.
The A-League currently has 10 teams contesting, and will bring in a further two for the 2019-20 season, with the early indication being that one of those slots could be given to a new Sydney based team.
Dandenong-born Simon McKeon, chair of the South East Melbourne group of councils, said south-east Melbourne is crying out for a professional sporting club to train and play here.
“There are more than 1.2 million living people in south-east Melbourne and families would love the opportunity to come together with the wider community to support a team they can identify strongly with and watch play at a purpose-built stadium,” McKeon said.
In fact, there are 89 clubs based in the south-east Melbourne region and over 12,000 registered players currently playing the sport.
Adding to that, three semi-professional clubs in NPL Victoria in the region – Dandenong Thunder, Dandenong City and Springvale White Eagles – are fully behind the bid, and have become actively involved in the discussions.
McKeon said the region provides a large, ready-made army of diverse, enthusiastic supporters who already love the world game.
“It’s a no-brainer,” McKeon said. “The beautiful game would find a perfect home among a massive group of professional supporters at an easily accessible location next to Dandenong Train Station.”
Various funding options for the stadium build are being explored, with Development Victoria, Ernst and Young, Cox Architecture and Greater Dandenong Council working together on development plans for the site.
The stadium build – as well as a proposed Casey Fields Centre of Excellence, where the team’s training and administration facilities would be based – is predicated on Team 11 being admitted into the A-League.
Socceroos legend and Team 11 ambassador Vince Grella said the new club would be playing at a football-specific venue with an intimacy that would rival all others in the country.
“Football fans in Australia have been crying out for boutique venues in which to house our clubs. Dandenong Stadium is perfect,” Grella said.
“There are more people playing football than any other sport in this country.
“Not only will Team 11 be able to enjoy this facility, but the potential for Socceroos, Matildas and youth internationals to be played here is very real, as well as local club games and regional gala events and tournaments.”
The land proposed for the stadium is owned by the City of Greater Dandenong.
Greater Dandenong Councillor and Team 11 steering committee member Jim Memeti said the unveiling of stadium plans demonstrates the seriousness of the region’s bid, spearheaded by the Greater Dandenong, City of Casey and Cardinia Shire councils.
“With Greater Dandenong being the most multicultural municipality in Australia, football is the No.1 sport of choice for our residents and so it is fitting that a rectangular venue would sit pride of place in the heart of our Central Business District,” Cr Memeti said.