Footscray’s Whitten Oval could once again host AFL matches under plans for a $40-45 million redevelopment.
The Western Bulldogs have released a master plan developed by architecture firm Populous for the oval precinct, due to be completed over a number of stages.
The first stage, now completed via a $5 million state government grant, included an upgrade to women’s change rooms, toilets and a scoreboard.
The ambitious second stage, expected to cost between $40 and$45 million will include upgrade of the playing surface, rebuilding the Whitten Stand to help increase spectator capacity to 18,000, upgrades to administration and football department facilities and broadcast quality lighting upgrade.
A new entry plaza and running track will also be built along with development of a secondary training venue elsewhere in Footscray.
Later stages – tipped to take the overall project total close to $150 million – will include residential redevelopment of a large parcel of land to the south of the oval that was last year gifted to the club by the state government.
The area could also include childcare, eateries and a medical and fitness health hub.
Maribyrnong Council is currently investigating the potential realignment of Cross Street to accommodate the works.
Bulldogs chief executive Ameet Bains said the master plan reflects the club’s long-term vision of the Whitten Oval precinct as a magnet for players and a hub for the west.
“A redeveloped precinct will provide an amazing base for our four teams, and we expect the football facilities to be a huge drawcard for the Club keeping and attracting star players,” he said.
“Our immediate focus is to improve the experience of watching football at the venue to ensure that VU Whitten Oval remains one of the key AFL priority venues for AFLW matches.”
The club has earmarked “a significant capital contribution” to the next stage but will also be seeking state government funding.
Mr Bains said the upgrade of the oval could pave the way for the return of the occasional heritage game.
“We would love to see the occasional heritage AFL match return to the ground in time,” Bains said.
“To be embarking on such an exciting and ambitious project to redevelop the Whitten Oval precinct is a special opportunity which shows how far we’ve come as a club, and underlines our commitment to ensuring we provide elite facilities for our football teams and to service our members and fans, local residents and the community of the west.”
The state government has provided $1 million funding for the club to conduct more detailed design. No firm timeline has been set for the works.