GMHBA Stadium (previously Simonds Stadium) is the home of the Geelong Cats AFL team side and has been a cherished part of the urban fabric of the City of Greater Geelong for almost 75 years. Whilst it is best known for its AFL match day usage, the Stadium is a truly multi-purpose venue with its diverse facilities being used for a range of elite and community level sports and events.
CHALLENGE. The venue had undergone three stages of redevelopment. Following on from the 2001 Master Plan, Populous were appointed in January 2008 to undertake these redevelopments, starting from Stage 2 – the Redevelopment of the Ross Drew Stand.
The goal was to create elite training and administrative facilities for Geelong Football Club, whilst maximising community usage and commercial benefits derived from such a significant recreational asset. The redevelopment included a 5000 seat capacity grandstand, player training and rehabilitation facilities; improved gymnasium access for local high-performance athletes; new, expanded and improved corporate entertaining facilities; additional disabled spectator facilities; and new and expanded administration facilities for the Cats.
The third stage, completed in 2013, saw demolition of the Doug Wade Stand, Southern Terrace and Past Players & Officials Building and the development of a new southern stand, to be named the Players’ Stand. It increased to 33,500 and included public concourse linkages into the Premiership Stand; Members’ reserved seating and public seating; a ‘Community Wellness and Education Centre’; a new ‘Past Players and Officials’ Room; new Police and First Aid facilities; new public concession outlets and amenities; a New Members’ Lounge; and better spectator facilities.
INNOVATION. In late 2014, the Victorian Government confirmed its support and funding for the ongoing redevelopment of the Brownlow and Jennings Stands on the Western Side of the ground, which also became the ‘front door’ of the stadium and the entry point for the majority of spectators and visitors.
This fourth stage of works, completed in May 2017, included a wider range of new facilities aimed at improving the spectator experience such as greater levels of undercover spectator seating. What definitely draws more attention is the newest ‘Fan Portal’ Space, a world-first experience which allows fans and sponsors to be closer to the team and the action. Now it is possible for the supporters to sit in the club’s new café and, through a large glass window, watch the Cats warm up just 10 metres away.
In addition, GMHBA Stadium now has a new social club; new training, administration and players facilities; world-class facilities for the media and broadcasters; a large, multi-purpose function room; and the Sunrise Centre – a facility aimed at enabling and assisting people with a disability in returning to work.
IMPACT. GMHBA Stadium plays an important role within the region. The redevelopment has turned the stadium into an enjoyable precinct, and created the opportunity for the city of attract major sporting events.
The outcome has reinforced the venue’s reputation as a great sports hub, Victoria’s third national multi-purpose stadium and Australia’s best regional stadium, capable of holding a wide variety of events, including private functions, football, rugby, cricket, soccer matches and music concerts.