Should the MCG be redeveloped and the members' stand be demolished?
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Echo Issue Outline 2001 / 03
It has been proposed to redevelop the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground).
Under the proposal the Olympic and Ponsford stands would be demolished and new, more spacious and better-serviced stands would be built. Also proposed is that the members' stand or members' pavilion would be demolished. The members' stand was built in 1928 and is the oldest surviving stand at the MCG.
The plan to remove the Olympic and Ponsford stands has provoked little comment and generally seems to have been accepted as a necessary improvement. However, the proposal to remove the members' pavilion has concerned a number of groups, including the National Trust.
What they said ...
'a moderately elderly and not-all-that-attractive architectural minorpiece'
Charles Stephens, a Melbourne writer, commenting on the Members' Pavilion at the MCG
'If the Members' Pavilion is demolished and a modern stand is built in its place, the MCG will appear like any other large sporting arena around the world: a large concrete doughnut'
Randall Bell, the Victorian chairman of the National Trust of Australia
Copyright © Echo Education Services
First published in The Echo on-line newspaper information site.
Issue outline by J M McInerney
The MCG Trust and the Melbourne Cricket Club have put the proposed redevelopment of the MCG forward. Construction of the new stands would begin in 2002 and would be scheduled for completion in 2005. This would be in time for the Commonwealth Games to be held in Melbourne in 2006.
The redevelopment has been costed at some $400 million. The construction will be jointly sponsored by the MCC, the Federal Government-backed Commonwealth Games Authority and the AFL.
The State Government is not funding the redevelopment, but has agreed to guarantee the bank loans to build the stands. The State Government similarly backed the loans that financed the building of the Great Southern Stand in 1992.
The AFL has proposed placing a $2 levy on football spectators at the MCG to pay most of the league's share of the bill.
The AFL has been reported to have offered the MCG and trust $4 million over the next 32 years. It is believed the stadium wants closer to $7 million a year.
Vic-Cricket is a cricket information site that supplies information of particular relevance to Victorian cricket fans.
The site has a chronology of significant dates in the history of cricket in this state. It can be found at http://home.vicnet.net.au/~cricket/history.htm
The on-line cricket magazine, The Pavilion.com.au, published an article in December, 1999, dealing with the battle for control of the ground being fought between the Melbourne Cricket Club and the MCG Trust. It was titled "MCG Trust under fire as civil war wages". It can be found at http://thepavilion.com.au/national/19991223/A53398-1999Dec22.html
The article considers the demands being placed on the MCG to compete with the high level of facilities available at new venues such as Colonial Stadium.
It also gives the opinion of the Melbourne Cricket Club's then secretary, Mr John Lill, that the days of the members stand were numbered and that it would have to be demolished to make way for the redevelopment of other sections of the ground.
The Heritage Council of Victoria, Heritage Victoria, has an Internet site. This can be found at http://www.heritage.vic.gov.au/
Though it includes no specific information on the proposed redevelopment of the MCG, it does give information on the Victorian Heritage Register.
Arguments in favour of the demolition of the members' stand at the MCG
1. The members' stand is not architecturally significant.
This point has been made by Charles Stephens, a Melbourne writer. Mr Stephens has described the members' pavilion as a 'moderately elderly and not-all-that-attractive architectural minorpiece.'
Its critics have noted that despite being the oldest stand at the MCG it is still a relatively recent building, having been erected in 1928. It is the third members' stand at the MCG and its critics have claimed that each of the previous stands had more architectural and historical significance.
2. The MCG, including the members' stand, has been redeveloped in the past.
This point was made in a Herald Sun editorial published on January 10, 2001. The editorial stated, '... the MCG is a world-class sporting arena precisely because over the years older stands have given way to new.'
According to this line of argument, the MCG is an evolving facility that has seen many changes and improvements in the past. Daryl Jackson, one of the architects on the MCG feasibility plan, has made this point. Mr Jackson has stated, 'Since the 1860s, there has been regular change to stands, seating capacity and proximity to the play, so much so that the oldest structure at the MCG is 72 years old.'
Mr Jackson summed up this position in the following manner. 'The MCG has always been Australia's greatest stadium. It has grown great through renewal and revitalisation.'
3. Spectators cannot view sporting events in comfort in the current stands.
Daryl Jackson, one of the architects on the MCG feasibility plan, has observed, 'The northern side of the MCG fails to meet current standards for watching sport.
Its poor access, seating and viewing, along with the few dining, toilet and lounge facilities, make a rebuild long overdue.'
Mr Jackson claims that for these reasons there is general agreement that the Northern and Ponsford stands should be replaced entirely.
It is further argued that if these stands are replaced with more comfortable stands allowing better access and seating some 3500 seats would be lost. The demolition of the current members stand would prevent this.
4. The current members' stand is inadequate.
Daryl Jackson, one of the architects on the MCG feasibility plan, has made this point. Mr Jackson has noted, 'The Members Pavilion was built in 1928 when the club had 5000 members so the 8000-seat capacity stand could accommodate members and guests.
Today, there are 70,000 members with 20,000 members seats scattered in parts of the ground and no single reserve capable of holding all members.
The existing pavilion ... has no dining access facing the ground and totally inadequate disabled access.'
5. Important elements of the members' stand will be retained.
This point has been made by Charles Stephens, a Melbourne writer. Mr Stephens has stated, 'Clever design skills will allow the MCG's Long Room to be fitted into the proposed new development - or perhaps just a few panels, windows and the odd door and frame, and some of the d‚cor and memorabilia.'
Daryl Jackson, one of the architects on the MCG feasibility plan, has made a similar point.
Mr Jackson has stated, 'The real heritage value of the pavilion is in the artefacts and special places such as the Long Room.
They will be represented in new circumstances that recognise historic, traditional and cultural values ...
A starting point is that at the new members' entrance will include the existing bronze doors, honor rolls and memorials, while the Long Room and Bull Ring will be rebuilt and all memorabilia displayed.'
Arguments against the demolition of the members' stand at the MGC
1. The members' stand represents an important link with the history and heritage of the MCG.
Randall Bell, the Victorian chairman of the National Trust of Australia, has made this point. Mr Bell has stated, 'The significance of a place is not simply its architecture but also the events that occurred.
The Members' Pavilion has been a backdrop for many historical moments.
In 1943-5, the Royal Australian Air Force used the pavilion as a base camp.
In 1954, it played host to the Queen and has been used for many dinners for governors and international guests since then.'
Mr Bell has also stated, 'Demolish the Members' Pavilion and you erase these memories. Ask yourself what would the Melbourne Central development be like without the shot tower.'
A similar point was made in an Age editorial published on January 2, 2001. The editorial stated, 'The MCG is a place where generations have gathered for summer Tests and winter football ... this rich sense of history is embodied by the members' stand ...'
2. The members' stand is a key part of what makes the MCG unique.
Randall Bell, the Victorian chairman of the National Trust of Australia, has also argued, 'If the Members' Pavilion is demolished and a modern stand is built in its place, the MCG will appear like any other large sporting arena around the world: a large concrete doughnut.'
According to this line of argument, the members' stand is all that sets the MCG apart from other similar stadiums built in many other nations. Those who hold this view argue that without the members stand the uniqueness of the MCG would disappear.
3. The National Trust regards the members' stand as significant.
The National Trust opposes the demolition of the members' stand. The Trust is attempting to have the MCG's oldest stand, the members' pavilion registered by the Heritage Council as protected.
The National Trust has claimed that the demolition of the members' stand, the oldest grandstand at the MCG would rob the stadium of its identity.
Randall Bell, the chairman of the National Trust in Victoria, has claimed, 'The Members' Pavilion adds character and individuality to Melbourne and it provides the last remaining link to the Melbourne Cricket Ground's colourful history.'
4. Many members of the Melbourne Cricket Club do not want the stand demolished.
It has been claimed that a survey of the MCC's members has indicated that a majority support the new development, including the demolition of the members' stand. Those who oppose the demolition of the members' pavilion claim that the survey has been misinterpreted.
Firstly they note that the survey sought the opinion of only 2,000 of the MCG's 70,000 members. They further claim that the significance of the survey has been misstated. It has been observed that 75 per cent of those surveyed indicated that they would like to see the members' stand refurbished. They claim that this is not the same as wishing to see the stand demolished. They further argue that as 95 per cent of those surveyed favour the retention of the Long Room and other important heritage components this indicates that they do not wish to see the existing structure destroyed.
This point was made in an Age editorial published on January 2, 2001. The editorial states that there is among MCC members 'a strong sense of attachment to the existing structure.'
5. The demolition of the stand is motivated by short-term considerations.
It has been argued that the plan to provide better seating at the MCG has been largely inspired by a desire to provide for the Commonwealth Games, to be held in Melbourne in 2006.
Critics of the proposed redevelopment have argued that the Commonwealth Games are not an adequate reason to demolish much of the current stadium.
Caroline Wilson, a commentator for The Age, has made this point. Ms Wilson has stated, 'The Commonwealth Games. Doesn't exactly set the world on fire, does it? Surely half the MCG will not be ripped apart and rebuilt in the name of that event, the Olympics poverty-stricken relation.'
It seems highly likely that the proposed redevelopment of the MCG is likely to go ahead. Apart from the desire to offer the best facility possible for the Commonwealth Games it seems like that the M
CC and the MCG Trust see a need to prevent the MCG being replaced as Melbourne's premier stadium by facilities such as the Docklands stadium.
Given this it is difficult to imagine the MCG surrendering one of its principal advantages over the Docklands stadium, greater seating capacity, in order to preserve the members' stand.
Even if the members stand is listed on the heritage register as worthy of protection, this is unlikely to prevent its demolition.
A spokesperson for Heritage Victoria has stated that such a listing would not automatically secure the survival of the members' stand.
In approving or rejecting a demolition application, Heritage Victoria must take into account the potential economic loss to the owners if the demolition does not proceed.
On these grounds alone it would seem that the redevelopment, including the removal of the members' stand, is likely to go ahead. Also worth noting, is the fact that both the Federal Government and the Victorian Government support the redevelopment.
Newspaper items used in the preparation of this outline
Available as a press cuttings package (with an issue outline reprint): price: $21.00 (NO LONGER AVAILABLE)
23/12/00 page 1 news item by Karen Lyons, James Chessell and Gabrielle Costa, 'Plan to raze MCG stands'
23/12/00 page 1 comment by Caroline Wilson, 'Tradition totters in great Paddock'
29/12/00 page 4 news item by Ian Munro, 'Forum will hear MCG stand anger'
30/12/00 page 6 news item by Ian Munro, 'Members pavilion must go, says MCC'
2/1/01 page 10 editorial, 'Making a stand for the MCG'
3/1/01 page 11 comment by Charles Stephens, 'MCG stands its ground once more'
10/1/01 page 13 comment by Tony Wilson, 'How to sweeten a very bitter pill'
16/1/01 page 3 news item by Sally Finlay, 'Developers nominate the MCG for heritage listing'
The Herald Sun
8/1/01 page 19 comment by Daryl Jackson, 'Should stand survive?'
8/1/00 page 19 comment by Randall Bell, 'Pavilion last link to colourful history'
9/1/01 page 11 news item by Michael Gleeson, 'Trust in bid to register pavilion'
10/1/01 page 18 editorial, 'Sticklers' wicket'
11/1/01 page 3 news item by Michael Gleeson, 'Elliott backs MCG plans'