AFL matches could finally return to Footscray’s Whitten Oval with the announcement of plans for new residential and commercial development that will help fund an overall upgrade of the oval.
Details of the project emerged on Thursday night as the state government announced it will gift the Western Bulldogs Football Club a large parcel of nearby land that had been earmarked for residential redevelopment.
The handover comes on top of a $5 million state government grant to upgrade women’s change rooms, toilets and a scoreboard along with TV-quality lighting for future AFLW home games.
The government plans to hand the club all of the land at the southern end of the oval, along with the existing Cross Street and VicTrack land stretching all the way to West Footscray station.
The 5000-square-metre site between Cross Street and the railway line was slated for redevelopment by the former state government in 2014 and an expression of interest campaign was held seeking interest from private developers.
But the land will now be gifted to the club for football and “community development” purposes likely to include shops and residential apartments.
The Bulldogs issued a statement confirming that it has been working on a master plan for the redevelopment of the precinct for some time.
“The Club plans to develop the southern end of VUWO both with match-day viewing, seating, and hospitality offerings, but to also develop the expanded site with complementary uses which may include car parking, commercial, residential, entertainment and retail opportunities.”
Income from developing the commercial and residential elements of the project will be used to fund further upgrades to the oval.
The project will require the realignment of Cross Street.
The club is also looking to extend its crown lease over the balance of Whitten Oval.
It will use also the extra income generated from the plans to allow it to sell out of its remaining licensed premises and follow the suit of other AFL clubs cutting their reliance on pokies.
“The arrangement recognises that only the Western Bulldogs can optimise the real potential of this unique site,” the club said.
“It will be a vibrant and entertaining football venue on weekends and a busy and attractive place to live, work, dine and play sport during the week.”
Whitten Oval will primarily remain the home of women’s and VFL games, but the club expects the expanded capacity and quality to make scheduling the occasional heritage game in the men’s AFL premiership season an option.
Redesign options will be revealed by the end of this year.
The project is part of a landmark deal between the AFL and the state government that includes a $225 million revamp of the Bulldogs’ home ground Etihad Stadium and its surrounding precinct.