$90m Cats stadium upgrade plans to start immediately

LOSS: Cats chief Brian Cook.

PLANNING and design on Simonds Stadium’s stage-four expansion will start immediately following the election of a new state government, according to Geelong Cats chief executive Brian Cook.
Key elements of the project will be the replacement of the Brownlow and Jennings stands to boost crowd capacity, Mr Cook said.
“This is an outstanding outcome for our club and the Geelong community, and ensures we continue to implement our vision of providing a world-class stadium for our region,” Mr Cook said.
The $90 million stage-four redevelopment is set to proceed after Labor promised $70 million for the project during the state election campaign. The coalition failed to pledge funding for stage four.
The stadium has struggled to fill with football patrons after the three earlier stages expanded capacity to 33,500. The largest crowd last year was 27,402 when the Cats hosted North Melbourne.
Stage four will lift capacity to 36,000.
The expansion comes after the Cats’ first financial operating loss in 15 years.
The club blamed falling attendances and a drop in commercial revenue for the $250,000 loss.
Home attendances at Simonds Stadium, the MCG and Etihad Stadium dropped from an average of 36,649 in 2013 to 33,915 this year.
Mr Cook said commercial revenue was down $1.1 million and football department spending increased $200,000 to $21.6 million.
A key task of the stage-four upgrade would be identifying the best timelines for commencement and completion of construction while minimising disruption to match-day and general club operations.
“We can however confirm that there will be no impact during the 2015 season,” Mr Cook said.
“Once the key timelines for the project have been established, we will communicate these dates to members and stakeholders.”
Mr Cook said the stadium’s staged development added to the club’s loss.
“Over the past decade the club has invested all of our profits – over $13 million – back into Simonds Stadium. No other club has the same issues around stadium costs, and in addition to this investment we continue to pay the City of Greater Geelong for leasing the venue and office space at the ground.
“These stadium costs are fixed regardless of how many games we play at our stadium and so increasing the number of games we play at Simonds Stadium is very important to our financial outcomes.
“Playing two of our home games at Etihad Stadium in 2014 was very costly to us and we continue to seek AFL support for returning these games to Simonds Stadium.
“While the overall result is disappointing, we continue to invest in our football department.”