The WA Premier has welcomed crowds to Perth’s $1.6 billion sport stadium this morning for the first time, with tens of thousands of people expected to visit throughout the day.
Cars are all but banned from drop-offs and parking is almost non-existent, so visitors today have largely depended on the train to deliver them to the stadium’s doors.
The new structure is the third largest sporting stadium in Australia by capacity, with 60,000 seats.
Premier Mark McGowan welcomed people this morning with a nod to his predesessor Colin Barnett, who was premier during most of the design and construction phase of the project.
“At the outset I want to thank Colin for all his work and perserverence,” he said.
“The most important thing about this stadium is it shows Western Australians can do anything.”
Stadium project director Ronnie Hurst told the ABC the stadium was designed to offer the best live experience it could, to compete with high-definition flat screen TVs and the comforts of home.
“That way, people will get out of the comfort of their living room with the flatscreen television, surround sound and fridge right beside them, to actually enjoy the live sport experience,” he said.
“That was the main thrust of everything we’re about in terms of the design of the stadium.”
Mr Hurst said the project was started in 2008 but put on hold for a few years during the Global Financial Crisis.
There was initially controversy over where in the city the stadium would be built, but the Liberal-National government of the day settled on Burswood.
Barnett wouldn’t change a thing, except name
Mr Barnett, who was at the helm during the bulk of the design and construction phase, said the project had the best facilities around the country and West Australians could be proud of it.
“The stadium has become almost the focal point of the city,” Mr Barnett, who was invited to cut the ribbon this morning with Mr McGowan and Sport Minister Mick Murray, had earlier told the ABC.
“It’s an entry statement for people coming in to Western Australia through the airport, and it’s become a dominant feature of Perth, I never thought it would have that.
“That’s testament to both the architect and the design that went into it, it’s a striking building both from the outside and inside.”
Mr Barnett said he would not do anything differently, and he believed the only mistake the McGowan Government made was selling naming rights to the facility.
“Due respect to Optus, they’re a good company, but I certainly would have retained the name Perth Stadium,” he said.
The deal struck with the telecommunications giant will generate an estimated $50 million over 10 years.
He said the decision to delay the project in 2008 was to give priority to the Perth Children’s Hospital.
“I suppose it’s one of those quirks of history that the stadium went beautifully as a project, that’s now completed, the children’s hospital’s still a couple of months away from finally opening,” he said.