A new addition to the landscape of Melbourne
You cannot stop looking at it, in day, the organic curves of the roof make it one of the most recognizable structures in Melbourne, and at night it takes on a whole new life. The lighting system is not just a work of art, it displays and accents multimedia displays. Of course that is just the building, the real excitement happens inside and on the green. Project Director of AAMI Stadium, Arvind David, sees it just not as a sporting facility, but a place of commerce, culture, and achievement. The project began in 2007 and was completed in 2010, but that does not tell the whole story. As many people know, the idea for the stadium started back in 2004, as part of Melbourne’s bid for a Super 14 team. “Melbourne was going for a Super Rugby team, to be based out of the city. As part of that bid, in the early 2000s, the Government made a commitment to provide a new stadium. Melbourne was unsuccessful in that bid, and Western Australia got the gig,” says David. Melbourne lost out to the Western Australian consortium. They began the project anyways, with a feeling that the next time they would be in line for a team. The league was expanded again in 2009, and Melbourne picked up the new license, and was able to take advantage of the commitment the Government had already made.
“They had, in 2004 and 2005, developed a business case around the development, so the Government had a pre-commitment to build the stadium anyways. The thinking behind the project was that Melbourne had a 10 000 seat stadium, it has a 60 000 seating stadium with a roof on it, it’s got a 5 to 10 000 venue, it was in need of a venue to fill the gap,” he says. “The other reason was that the rugby and football crowds get numbers in the 20 to 30 000s. The big blockbuster games, those will get 70 to 80 000 people.” David admits it was an interesting journey, but one that did have a happy ending for those involved. Originally, he says, the first proposition was to make a 20 000 capacity stadium, but the increased interest locally and internationally seemed to require that they build a larger stadium. The Government then agreed to fund the project to the 30 000 seat level.
Building an idea
“From conception to cutting the ribbon took roughly 5 years,” he says. During the construction process Melbourne was suffering from a 5-year-long drought. This is usually bad news, but for the construction process it represented a bit of a boon because there was next to no shutdowns due to weather. However, this highlighted their need to be extremely water efficient in the structure and in its operation. “What that meant was that there was a big focus on the water usage. As you know, stadiums are very water hungry to keep the turf going and other needs. That means that stadiums like this one would use over 20 mega litres of water a year,” says David. “One of the things that came into the project is a water recycling program that would reduce the potable water usage by at least 90 per cent,” he says that he has not encountered any other stadiums that have managed to achieve this sort of efficiency, especially right from the day the doors opened. During the construction process the venue was known as Melbourne Rectangular Stadium, but AAMI took on an 8 year sponsorship deal in order to rename the stadium, and the total budget for the project was 267.5 million dollars. It opened on May 7th, 2010.
“We have had some challenges, but some of them were almost pleasant, the design and the architecture is absolutely breath taking, and because of this it was difficult to build.” The geometry that makes up the building had to be developed alongside the construction process, he says. “It was not as though you could make even minor alterations without redesigning large sections, or make changes in the design without referring to the construction team, so we had to have great integration between architects and construction. In the early stages that was a challenge,” he says that this is not the way that projects are usually conceived of, but the people they had doing those jobs made it all possible. “Here minor changes in architecture would have major implications in performance, and that was a key feature,” he says. “The structure such as it is, is unstable until the entire structure is complete, and we had a team that handled it very well,” he says that the project would not have gone as well without the teams of Cox Architects and Grocon constructing the process.
Busy from day one
“We are in a fairly unique position, because I don’t know of another stadium in the world that has four football codes hosted at the venue. So you have football, you have got Rugby League with the Melbourne Storm, and you have got Rugby Union – the Super Rugby Team. You have the Melbourne Football Club – the AFL team, their administration and training is there.” This combination of uses that means the stadium is almost always in use, with at least 45 events booked a year, says David. The only issue with having your dance card this full is that you are sometimes unable to host things like concerts which would be quite lucrative to the park and the community. The other stadiums in the area have proved to be more attractive to host these events, but AAMI Park has hosted a few headliners since its opening in 2010. “We hosted a Lionel Richie concert this year that was very well received, the promoter was able to do it, but otherwise we have a very busy schedule as it is,” says David.
“We like to say that Melbourne is the sports capital of the world, but we really think it’s the sport capital of the universe, so with all these venues along the Olympic Parks area we are very well served in this regard,” he says. “Within a five or 10 minute walk you have about six different venues from Melbourne’s CBD. You won’t find anywhere else that has this.” He points out that the Australian Open takes advantage of this fact, and AAMI adds to the vibrancy of the area.
A mark of distinction
One of the most inspiring things about the structure is the innovative roof. The roof itself consists of some of the most innovative usage of steel and panelling seen in any athletic structure. Its light weight design represents substantial ecological savings and results. To illustrate this, David shows that the total energy used to build and maintain the structure is far less than other similar structures. The famous Beijing Birdsnest Olympic Stadium was constructed with an average of 550 kg of steel per seat, and represented 17 600 mj of energy; the Allianz Munich World Cup Stadium, about 132 kg a seat, and 4 224 kj in energy. AAMI Park is built with only 47 kg of steel per seat, and 1 504 mj of energy expended respectively. “It uses about 50 per cent less steel than other conventional structures do,” David says that they also made sure that they used Australian steel in the build of the project. “The products were all fabricated and made in Melbourne, and the only other portions that were not made here, were made in Tasmania and shipped over.”
Part of the innovative design is the lighting system that is integrated into the roof. Each night the skyline of Melbourne is lit up with the 1544 energy efficient LED lights. The sustainability of the lights is only part of their beauty, with well known artists Alexander Knox and Bruce Ramus each contributing to design lighting sequences for all occasions. “This came about because we had a partnering process where we had all the parties associated with the project signing up to a project charter, and one of the ones we signed between client, builder, designer, supplier and sub-contractor, was that we would all work together to try and exceed the level of performance that we had established at the concept stage,” says David. One of the processes they sought to improve was their energy consumption. By having the lights rotate when they were lit, this would represent major energy savings. . “We didn’t want to have a conventional flood lit stadium, so we said: ‘look we have addressed the water issue, we have addressed the local content issue, we have addressed minimisation of waste through construction and operations, but what are we doing for energy use?’” he says. LED lights are unlike halogen, incandescent, or even florescent lights because they do not require a warm up time, nor consume anywhere near the same amount of energy.
AAMI Park represents an important investment for the future of Melbourne, creating a future ready structure that is also ready for the present needs of the area. It took this into its consideration when the building was constructed and David and those working within the project aim to maintain the efficiencies and innovations that they have put into place.