RE-AWAKENING: Marvel Stadium’s spectacular re-imagining

Extensive renovations to Marvel Stadium in Melbourne, Australia, have been completed. The revamp was carried out to ensure the stadium will continue to attract top sporting events and concerts for generations to come and to elevate the fan experience to the next level, as Sports Venue Business’ John Sheehan reports.

The stadium is home to the Australian Football Leagues Carlton, Essendon, Western Bulldogs, St Kilda and North Melbourne, as well as cricket’s Big Bash Leagues Melbourne Renegades. Marvel Stadium also plays host to an eclectic mix of international sporting events and major concerts, having recently hosted Harry Styles, Paul McCartney and Coldplay.

Marvel Stadium, which was purchased by the AFL in 2016, is an essential part of Victoria’s major venues network and is critical in supporting the Victorian State Government’s annual sporting and entertainment events calendar. The venue’s size, location and multi-purpose capability provides tremendous flexibility to accommodate a diverse schedule of events and activities. 

In 2018, the AFL and the Victorian State Government entered into an agreement which provided a funding contribution of $225m towards an upgrade of Marvel Stadium delivered by the AFL.

Geoff Miller, Head of Development and Infrastructure at the AFL, told Sports Venue Business’ John Sheehan:

One of the key parts of the brief for the renovation was to make it more user-friendly, able to intuitively find your way around and make sure that we customise it on event days for the home teams and the variety of events it caters for.

Working closely with the Victorian State Government including the Government’s property developer, Development Victoria, the goal was to try to create a more permeable stadium that acted as a stepping stone down to the waterfront and to try to activate the harbour.

Geoff Miller, Head of Development and Infrastructure, Australian Football League, will be sharing insights on the redevelopment of Marvel Stadium, as well as future plans, during this month’s sold-out SVB LIVE Global Networking Event, being hosted in the Horizon Room at Marvel Stadium on June 25th.

Scott Fitzgerald, General Manager, Marvel Stadium, said the venue now has the ability to deliver a 365 day a year experience:

Marvel Stadium is the busiest multi-purpose stadium globally – We run up to 80 major events a year, hosting a variety of events from AFL to The Matildas Olympic Qualifiers to major international artists like P!nk, which achieved the biggest selling tour ever for a female artist at the Stadium.

The redevelopment at Marvel allows us to invest in year-long content, having the venue be a destination venue 365 days a year. We now have the ability to deliver innovative and engaging content for all visitors to the precinct. 

Whether you are after a free event to stop by and watch in stadium square, attend an event in stadium or looking for a more elevated experience in our brand-new hospitality areas, the stadium is ready to give everyone an unforgettable experience.

Scott Fitzgerald, General Manager, Marvel Stadium, is one of the 40+ high-level speakers confirmed to participate in this October’s SVB LIVE Conference & Exhibition, being hosted at Croke Park in Dublin, Ireland.

Developing Marvel Stadium is an opportunity to release the precinct’s potential to function as an integrated and accessible destination fully connected to the city centre and deliver a year-round destination for all Victorians and visitors alike that underpins the financial sustainability of many of the local businesses which benefit from its regular patronage. 

A key feature of the revamp designed by architects Grimshaw in partnership with smartform architecture was to open up the precinct around the stadium and make it more welcoming. 

Grimshaw – Melbourne Managing Partner, Neil Stonell, said:

The AFL wanted to recast the stadium to take advantage of a Wednesday lunchtime as much as Saturday afternoon or Friday night, so to really revise the hospitality offerings and fan experience. 

The previous design of the stadium was quite defensive as it was the first project to be inserted into the new Melbourne Docklands precinct. We really wanted to open it up and not just reinvigorate the stadium but actually start connecting to the precinct where you walk past the stadium from Southern Cross Station. We wanted to push the stadium out to a point and then draw people in.

We wanted to make sure that the edges are active, vibrant and visible so that draws more people in. We viewed it as much as an urban project as we did a sports project.

Welcoming spaces

This world-class renovation has transformed Marvel Stadium’s main entry (Gates 2 & 3) into Stadium Square – a state-of-the-art precinct that is equal parts gateway to excitement and vibrant entertainment hub. Visitors to the Stadium can now meet, eat, drink and play Inside The Square all year round, whether it’s an event day, a special occasion or a casual catch up with friends.

The space features retail outlets EARL, 8bit Burger and The Johnnie Walker Bar, as well as a range of guest services including an additional new Parents Room, Sensory Room (the second at the Stadium), Multi-Faith Prayer Room and a Changing Places facility.

Sheltered from the elements in the undercover oasis, patrons are welcomed to the architecturally designed two-level hub by an impressive Super Screen that will feature live broadcasts of sport  and event day live sites and watch parties. 

Miller said:

One of the big game changers for the redevelopment was that we wanted to activate the southern end seven days a week. It had to be more than just the stadium. From the government’s perspective they wanted this to be a community asset as well as an event day sporting asset. 

It’s really important that this stadium underpins the heavy workload of the Victorian major event schedule. They wanted to make sure we upgraded these spaces to be able to optimise the calendar of events that the Victorian government brings to Melbourne. It’s a pretty heavy schedule at the best of times and this is a pretty unique sporting facility in terms of having the roof, and at 54,000+ capacity to be able to hold a lot of those events.

Other C-suite speakers at this month’s SVB LIVE Global Networking Event include Karen Clydesdale, Head of Customer Experience & CRM, Tennis Australia, Lisa Price, Head of Australian Open, Melbourne & Olympic Parks, Peter Filopoulos, Chief Corporate Affairs, Brand & Comms, Football Australia, Simon Kelleher, COO, Geelong Cats and James Avery, CEO, Stadiums Tasmania.

On the eastern side of the stadium at Gate 5, the City Edge side of the Stadium features new premium function spaces including the Skyline and Horizon rooms boasting floor-to-ceiling glass windows, a Stadium Rooftop boasting panoramic views of the Melbourne CBD and many other new food & beverage outlets open to the general public on event day.

Attendees at this week’s SVB LIVE Global Networking Event will get to experience the re-imagined premium spaces at Marvel Stadium first-hand. Images, courtesy: Marvel Stadium / AFL

Stadium upgrades also consist of several technology components, including new seating bowl videoboards, thematic and sports lighting, as well as a refurbishment of the existing team facilities to support professional women’s sport making Marvel Stadium a world-class venue for male and female top tier events.

Womens sport to the fore

The rise of women’s sport was a key driver in how the stadium revamp took shape with alterations to the changing facilities a priority. The Matildas have played at the stadium on several occasions, while Arsenal Women took on the A-League All Stars Women in May.

The stadium now boasts four equal-size locker rooms and two warm-up rooms.

Amanda York, Interior Design Leader at Grimshaw, added:

The stadium is more than 20 years old now. It’s fair to say that these facilities were designed predominantly for male participants, so they really needed a refresh. We replanned all of these particular spaces and elevated them to be perfect for sport but also as an entertainment venue.

The recent use by the Matildas has been a perfect example of how they’ve been able to put their code overlay in and really create personality and identity in those team facilities.

Amanda York, Interior Design Leader, and Harriet Oswald, Principal Associate at Grimshaw, will be sharing insights during the SVB LIVE Global Networking Event, being hosted at Marvel Stadium on June 25th. Grimshaw is also a sponsor for this event.

Hospitality offerings

The redeveloped stadium features a range of new hospitality offerings, including Hunky Dory, 8Bit burgers, 400 Gradi Pronto, EARL Canteen, Gami Chicken, and Yamas Souvlaki, with Delaware North the stadium’s food and beverage partner.

There are a range of Premium spaces in Stadium Square, including The Johnnie Walker Bar, restaurants; Friends of Fire & Amphora; and The Wine Room. As well as premium restaurants that can be found in the Medallion Club, including Lee Ho Fook and The Gallery.

York said:

From the start, the conversations that we were having with the AFL was that the stadium is more than just about sport. Our aim was to elevate the spaces through the hospitality offerings. 

We took a view that Melbourne has many personalities and different hospitality offerings and we thought how do we create that same experience and that sense of discovery that never grows old? 

In Melbourne there’s always a new venue opening up down another alleyway, so how do we recreate Melbourne within this precinct and within the stadium and create a uniquely Melbourne experience?

Stonell added:

There are spaces in here that when you’re sitting down you would not think that you were in a sports venue. You feel like you’re in the premium area of a casino or in a good quality restaurant.

Marvel Stadium is the main event partner and host venue for the second SVB LIVE Global Networking Event, along with sponsors Grimshaw, Ground Control Global, Accredit Solutions, Liively, Riptide Partners and Ticketverse.

York added:

It’s about having a connected stadium. From the premium function space we have a view to the city and a really interesting side of Melbourne that isn’t necessarily visible from every vantage point. You’re looking over the rail yards into the rear of the city and then through to the field of play so you really have that great perspective.

Miller added:

We have new premium entry points to the stadium with special VIP access including stunning glass elevators at Gate 5 taking patrons directly from entry to function spaces, elevating the guest experience and seamless entry into the stadium.

All the function areas are fully flexible with operable walls so you can split the Parker room off from the Skyline or you can join it all up as one. We’ve also got an arrival champagne bar so if your function hasn’t started, you can stay here and have a drink while you’re waiting for your event or function to open up.

Technology upgrades

Technology has been upgraded across the stadium with connectivity powered by our Marvel Stadium Technology Partner Telstra. 

Telstra worked with Marvel Stadium to analyse connectivity performance across the stadium and subsequently brought an Australia-first Digital Antenna System (DAS) design to Marvel Stadium, deploying a new layout that delivered four times the 5G capacity across the Stadium, including a world first offering mid-band 5G on the field of play. This results in vastly reduced congestion for on-field events – and a far more enjoyable experience for concert goers.

Miller added:

We’ve got 5G connectivity, including on the field of play, so when we have concerts with patrons on the field of play, they’ve got terrific connectivity.

We’ve also gone to wireless gate scanning for tickets and we’ve been able to do that because there’s a very low latency Wi-Fi now. We’re able to do wireless point of sale as well.

There are also new video boards at each end of the stadium behind the AFL goals and thematic lighting in the bowl and on the external periphery.

Over 1,600 screens, provided by Sharp, keep fans connected to what is happening on the field of play even when they’re not in the stadium bowl.

Last year, Marvel Stadium also became the first venue in the Southern Hemisphere to launch The Runner introduce Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology for checkout-free purchases. The aim was to modernise the stadium’s food and beverage offering, giving fans the ability to grab food and drink and get back to the game faster, thanks to a frictionless shopping experience.

Extensive renovations to Marvel Stadium have been completed. The revamp was carried out to ensure the stadium will continue to attract top sporting events and concerts for generations to come and to elevate the fan experience to the next level

Project challenges

The project faced a number of challenges, not least that it coincided with Covid and the ensuing lockdowns.

Stonell said:

We executed the contract for the project around the 14th of March 2020 and around the 19th of March 2020 we sent everybody home, so it was very much coloured by Covid. We were able to move into a kind of a work from home environment within two hours pretty much so that enabled the project to keep going.

Every major design stage tracked a Melbourne lockdown within a week or two so, literally when we came up for air between drawing stages we were able to go and see the world again and then we were dragged back in.

Stonell said the shutdown of the AFL also hit the project finances because the football season ground to a halt and there were major concerns about whether the AFL would survive:

We were in a fortunate position where the government were putting some money into this so like many government backed projects in early 2020 we were able to carry on.

The future

The Victorian State Government and the Australian Football League (AFL) have entered a Joint Venture agreement to explore redevelopment opportunities at two prominent Docklands sites adjacent to Marvel Stadium on Harbour Esplanade to transform the waterfront. The agreement is between Development Victoria and the AFL. 

The Channel 7 building is adjacent to AFL House and the future redevelopment of these sites and integration with Marvel Stadium presents opportunities to deliver a mixed-use development that can revitalise Docklands’ waterfront and enhance the Stadium as a sports and entertainment complex.

A Planning Scheme Amendment application to change the Melbourne Planning Scheme to include potential building outlines and design requirements for future buildings on the sites has been lodged for consideration by the Minister for Planning.


Marvel Stadium and the AFL

Telstra – Technology 

Sharp – AV



Diageo – F&B

Delaware North (stadium caterer) – F&B

Marvel (stadium naming rights sponsor) – Retail

Grimshaw – Architects

Amazon JWO – Frictionless technology

Sharp – Screens

smartform architecture – Architects

Sports Venue Business has launched a raft of new offerings under the SVB LIVE banner, including Networking Events and a Webinar Series, the pinnacle of which is the SVB LIVE Conference & Exhibition, being held at Croke Park, October 9th and 10th, with an Opening Night Icebreaker on October 8th. The next sold-out Networking Event is taking place at Marvel Stadium on June 25th.

Check out the latest sports and entertainment venue development news in the exclusive, subscription-only, SVB Global Report here.

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