Interview with Ron Alexander, Director General – Department of Sport and Recreation and Co-Chair of the Perth Stadium Steering Committee
In this latest industry interview, Katie McIntyre discusses the new Perth Stadium project with Ron Alexander, Director General – Department of Sport and Recreation and Co-Chair of the Perth Stadium Steering Committee; the Department of Sport and Recreation is the client agency for the Perth Stadium project.
What were the main drivers for the new Perth Stadium?
A State Government Major Stadia Taskforce issued a report in 2007 that identified that Western Australia’s existing cricket and AFL stadia no longer met the needs of their respective sports or supporters plus the respective venues lay dormant in the off-season months.
The Taskforce also determined that Western Australia was at a distinct disadvantage when competing against other cities to host major international and national events and the cost to upgrade existing stadia was not viable. The result of this extensive research was the recommendation for the State Government to build a new 60,000-seat multi-purpose Stadium – Perth Stadium.
The Project Team established nine User Groups, which were consulted throughout the planning process, to determine the key aspirations for the project ensuring the Stadium is an asset that all Western Australians are proud of.
The stakeholders recognised that the Stadium should reflect Perth’s unique culture and history and above all, the need to put fans first in the planning and delivery of the Stadium. As a result of this consultation five aspirations for the project were agreed:
- Cater for the fans using the Stadium by taking a “fan-first” approach to planning and design to create an exceptional event atmosphere
- Perth Stadium will transform the Burswood Peninsula and create a spectacular gateway to the City
- Together with other major development projects in Perth, Perth Stadium will enhance Perth’s reputation as a world-class destination
- The fan experience will be enhanced through the provision of an improved and integrated public transport system comprising upgrades to road, rail, bus and pedestrian services to allow maximum public transport usage
- Project management for the Stadium will focus on sound planning and strong contract management to achieve the best value for money and deliver a world-class stadium on time and within the approved budget
How did you set about choosing the right design and construction team to deliver the project?
The Perth Stadium Project Team undertook a year of planning in 2011, which involved a benchmarking investigation of stadia both domestically and internationally, including MetLife Stadium, the Dallas Cowboys and Yankee Stadiums in addition to all the major stadia across Australia.
The Project Definition Plan was then established comprising a Master Plan, a two-staged procurement strategy, a time program to deliver the Stadium by the target date, a cost plan, and a governance structure for the design and construct phase as well as the operating phase.
The Design, Build, Finance and Maintain (DBFM) procurement model selected for the project was considered as the structure most likely to maximise value-for-money for the Western Australian State Government and taxpayer, and deliver on the project aspirations. The model is well understood by the market, delivered competitive responses and prices plus incorporated a robust maintenance regime over a 25-year operating period.
Following thorough consultation with the project’s nine User Groups, the Request for Proposal documentation was established and issued to market.
In April 2013, three consortia were shortlisted to design, build, partially finance and maintain Perth Stadium and the surrounding Stadium Park.
Following the seven-month interactive tender process, a rigorous evaluation process and a three-month negotiation phase, the Westadium consortium was selected as the successful bidder for the DBFM contract with their design revealed in July 2014.
Westadium’s design successfully met the State’s requirements for a world-class, multi-purpose stadium within a parkland setting and did so with a uniquely Western Australian focus.
As you mentioned, the new Perth Stadium has been described as having an innovative ‘fans first’ design and approach. Can you tell us more about this?
The design of the Perth Stadium and surrounding Stadium Park is a testament to the long-term aspiration of creating a ‘fans first’ venue.
Throughout the planning and design phase, the priority was to put the needs of the fans first and the development of the Sports Fans User Group in early 2013 is testament to this. Thirty West Australian fans, covering a wide range of demographics and sports were selected from a field of 450 applicants to be members of the User Group to provide ongoing advice relating to the fan experience during events.
Using their experiences from attending events at other stadia, the Group highlighted the need for wider concourses, a larger number of food and beverage outlets and toilets to reduce queuing and wait times, cup holders in seats and a need for a consistent connection to the field of play – all of which have been delivered in the Perth Stadium design. They also provided feedback on the public transport solution and their vision for the parkland that surrounds the Stadium.
The Perth Stadium Project Team has also consulted with an Access and Inclusion User Group, which includes Individuals who Require higher levels of Universal Access (IRUA). Advice from this Group has ensured Perth Stadium will be one of the best in Australia for fans with a disability and/or special access requirements. Specific IRUA features include:
- Wheelchair positions on all levels with flexible seats for carers and guests, accommodating groups of all sizes
- The incorporation of over 70 Universal Accessible Toilets (UAT) across all five levels of the Stadium, plus three Changing Places toilets – the first venue in Australia to have more than one
- Nine times more permanent ACROD bays than required (2013 National Construction code)
- 360-degree circulation on general admission levels
The other seven User Groups were established with representatives from all the major sporting codes, emergency services, media, stadium operations and events personnel. Each one has provided ongoing advice on specific operational requirements for Perth Stadium and the surrounding Stadium Park.
Recognising Aboriginal heritage and the cultural significance of the site has also been very important. The Whadjuk Working Party was the prime point of liaison with the local Noongar community; their role was to provide input into important design elements such as the Swan River Pedestrian Bridge and the Precinct public art program.
Can you provide our readers with an update as to how the project progressing?
Design, procurement and construction of the Perth Stadium and surrounding Stadium Park is 75% complete and on schedule to open for the start of the 2018 Australian Rules Football League (AFL) season.
There are approximately 1,000 workers currently on site, which is expected to peak at over 1,200 in the coming months. The three-year construction period will involve more than 5,800 workers.
Construction of the Stadium is progressing well, with 100% of steel to create the Stadium frame installed, all 50 roof trusses erected and the main roof fabric panels installed.
Installation of the Stadium’s anodised aluminium façade is 99% complete and is nearing completion at the eastern end. Over half of the Stadium seats have been affixed to the concrete seating platforms and are wrapped in plastic to ensure they are protected until the opening in 2018.
Site works are well underway to prepare the playing surface for the rollout of the turf. Drainage, irrigation systems, conduits and other below ground equipment are currently being installed, which will be completed by mid-2017 and then turf installation will commence.
17,000m2 of stabilised natural turf will be installed at Perth Stadium in mid-2017, which combines a natural couch grass mixed with rye and artificial grass. This combination provides outstanding stability, durability and a flat playing surface.
Construction of the Perth Stadium Rail Station is 90% complete and on schedule to be completed in late-2017 ahead of a thorough commission and testing phase.
The Swan River Pedestrian Bridge works is 40% complete and once complete will connect East Perth with the Burswood Peninsula.
What hero products, solutions &/or initiatives will you be employing in the new Stadium?
Building Information Modelling (BIM) has been a beneficial tool for the design and construction phase of the project and will assist in the ongoing maintenance.
The project will be one of the first in Australia to be delivered at Level of Development (LOD) 500, meaning a complete as-built BIM model of the Stadium will be handed over to the facilities management team at the end of construction in late 2017.
BIM has already shown its benefits in the design and construction phase, with clash detection, design reviews, and shop drawing reviews carried out within the model. This process allowed the project team to clearly see and resolve problems in 3D before construction commenced.
From a stakeholder perspective, BIM enabled the project team to share proposed camera positioning with the Media User Group to determine any potential sightline issues – well ahead of the Stadium’s opening.
Importantly, the Sports Fans User Group has also been able to ‘virtually travel’ from public transport hubs surrounding the Stadium, through the ticket gates and into specific areas of the Stadium, allowing potential issues and improvements to be identified.
The state-of-the-art BIM model allows the entire project to communicate and work from a single point of information, maximising efficiencies in construction and operations.
With regards to the Stadium itself, Perth Stadium will have the widest range of seating options for fans from General Admission through to top end Premium Products and will include Australia’s first purpose designed Locker Room and Coaches Room, as well as traditional ‘premium (corporate) suites.’
The Locker Room offers a unique fan experience at pitch level. With the ability to watch the home team warm up, watch the game at the same level as the players and view the post-match media conference. This will truly be a fantastic experience for any dedicated fan.
The Coaches Room is located in the centre of the northern wing of level three, flanked by the two home team coaches’ boxes, and will provide a unique experience for 60 fanatical fans. Depending on the willingness of the coach, sound can be projected from the coaches’ box into the Coaches Room, giving patrons an unrivalled insight into the game and the tactics the coaches employ.
There are 95 Premium Suites located on both sides of the Stadium at levels three and four and for the fans that want a special ‘ground level’ experience, there are another six suites at Event Level, right next to the Locker Room.
A multi-purpose Function Centre, named The Riverview Room, is located within the Stadium on level three and is designed to offer views across the Swan River to the Perth CBD. A total of three Riverview rooms can operate independently or combined, accommodating either 500 people in each, 1,000 patrons across two rooms or a total of 1,500 people across one connected space.
There are also several Club Lounges and Premium Terraces, plus an a la carte and a buffet restaurant, located adjacent to the western entrance, which provide a destination for patrons both pre and post-game, as well as on non-event days.
The incorporation of cutting-edge stadium technology that caters for future trends is also a key initiative for the project.
Perth Stadium includes Wi-Fi access across all parts of the Stadium, two 340m2 giant video screens – the largest stadium screens in the southern hemisphere, and 1,000 TV screens located throughout the interior of the Stadium – so fans don’t miss any of the action. The procurement of these items was delayed until 2016 to ensure the Stadium includes the most advanced technology when it opens in early 2018.
What role will sustainability/green issues play in the new stadium?
Perth Stadium is registered for a ‘Green Star – Design & As Built’ rating, targeting a 4-star Green Star rating.
A Green Star project is one that has been certified under the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA)’s Green Star rating system for its reduced environmental impact.
To achieve this certification, several environmental considerations have been considered in the Stadium design.
The lightweight fabric used for the Stadium’s roof not only covers 85% of seats, the most of any ‘open’ stadium in Australia, but also naturally ventilates the Stadium, reducing energy usage.
15,000 LED lights will be used throughout the entire Stadium and surrounding Stadium Park to minimise energy usage.
The retention of existing vegetation plus the planting of water wise local flora will provide wind and shade protection, inspired by the Indigenous six seasons.
The State Government’s public transport strategy will also reduce the impact on the environment with rail, bus and pedestrian solutions able to safely and efficiently transport 83% of a capacity crowd (60,000) within one hour of an event finishing.
The additional 600 bike racks and path network around the Stadium Park will provide flexibility and encourage year-round use of the Precinct.
The Swan River Pedestrian Bridge Environmental Management Plan ensures that the river and adjacent environment is respected and protected during construction and throughout the life of the Bridge.
The Plan incorporates protective measures for marine fauna including monitoring of quality and underwater noise and vibration. Trained observers will also monitor the bridge construction activities and the presence of Indian Bottlenose Dolphins in the Swan River. If the dolphins get too close, the works will stop.
Erosion and sediment controls are also in place across the construction phase and have been designed to prevent surface water, soil or construction material entering the Swan River.
Finally, the landscaped areas on both sides of the Bridge will be enhances by planting native vegetation and trees when construction is complete.
What will be the main benefits to the community of the new Stadium?
The vision for the Perth Stadium and surrounding Stadium Park is that it will form a permanent centrepiece for the redevelopment of the Burswood Peninsula on the Swan River, creating a spectacular gateway to the Perth CBD whilst enhancing Perth’s reputation as a world-class destination for events and visitors alike.
The State Government of Western Australia has committed $19 million towards attracting and securing events for Perth Stadium, which will in turn provide a significant positive economic benefit to local businesses.
In January, the Premier of Western Australia Colin Barnett announced that [English] Premier League [EPL] powerhouse Chelsea would play against Perth Glory in an international friendly match at Perth Stadium in late July or early August 2018. The event is expected to attract 15,000 interstate and international visitors generating about $15 million for the WA tourism industry.
Additionally, in 2019, the NRL State of Origin II and Bledisloe Cup are set to be played at Perth Stadium, which is a fantastic result for sport lovers and the local tourist industry which is set to benefit from thousands of visitors to the State.
A comprehensive events calendar is currently being developed and further announcements on events secured for Perth Stadium will be made in the months ahead.
Even prior to the official open, Perth Stadium has already delivered for Western Australians. Local companies have been the big winners throughout the construction phase with the award of over $459 million (84% by value) of all subcontracts. These subcontracts have also generated jobs with 444 new and over 2,400 existing roles sustained.
Some of the big winners include Civmec Construction and Engineering that has fabricated all the steel used for the Stadium frame and roof structure from its Perth based factory – a contract worth $73 million. CASC has supplied $30 million of formwork and concrete, which have also all been manufactured in Perth.
Additionally, throughout the operational phase of the project, Stadium Operator, VenuesLive, will employ approximately 1,750 event staff.
Perth Stadium will be established within the wider Stadium Park, which will house extensive parklands alongside a variety of infrastructure, services and recreational facilities that encourages year-round use. Stadium Park will also have the capability to accommodate a range of different events, to maximise the use of facilities and engagement opportunities for the community.
The Stadium’s a la carte restaurant and buffet restaurants have been designed and located to be available both on event and non-event days. There will also be children’s playgrounds catering for different ages, and a network of walking and cycling tracks throughout the Park, all of which will encourage year-round use.
What are the specific challenges when it comes to delivering a multipurpose venue like the new Perth Stadium, which will play host to AFL, rugby (union & league), football (soccer), cricket and non-sporting events, including concerts?
The Stadium design is required to be multi-purpose with flexibility to host AFL, cricket, soccer, rugby union and league and entertainment events. In addition, the Perth Stadium can accommodate a future 400m athletics track and field (as an event overlay), consistent with the requirements of the Commonwealth Games and international athletics events.
The Rectangular Sports User Group was established in 2012 to ensure Perth Stadium met the requirements for rectangular sports. The User Group, which included representatives from Football West, Perth Glory, Rugby WA and NRL WA, focused on the pitch and the rectangular reconfiguration progress from oval shape.
Perth Stadium‘s field of play is oval in shape and consistent with the requirements for AFL and cricket. For rectangular sports, such as soccer and rugby, there will be up to 5,000-tiered drop in seats added, increasing the total capacity from 60,000 to 65,000 seats. The front row of seating (in oval mode) is raised approximately 1.2m from ground level, which allows the drop-in seats to be added and positioned on all four sides of the pitch, providing an exceptional viewing experience for fans (in rectangular mode).
For entertainment events, a range of stage locations can be accommodated: the eastern stand, northern stand or the centre of the pitch. The maximum capacity in concert mode is 70,000 fans when the stage is located in the centre of the pitch.
Removable seating plats in the lower bowl can facilitate easy reconfiguration for major event overlay, including an international athletics event.
It was recently announced that the new Perth Stadium will boast the biggest sports lighting system in the world. Can you tell us more about this?
Perth Stadium will have the largest LED sports lighting installation in the world with over 15,000 LED lights installed across the Stadium and surrounding Stadium Park.
The lighting system is designed and supplied by global lighting company Philips Lighting and once installed it will provide a lighting solution that is adaptable to specific requirements of sporting codes and other events.
Several major European stadiums already use the same Philips Lighting system, but on a smaller scale, including Stamford Bridge in London, home of the Chelsea Football Club, and Juventus Stadium in Turin, Italy, home of Juventus Football Club.
The LED flood lighting system for the playing surface will be installed in the roof frame, rather than using traditional light towers with halogen lights, reducing the visual impact, enhancing the atmosphere and reducing light spilling into other areas.
LED lights have many advantages over halogen light sources including lower energy consumption and therefore higher cost efficiency, longer lifetime and allows for instant restart.
A unique feature of Perth Stadium is that it has included a lighting control system that can program the flood lighting for pre-game entertainment and can also be used to enhance concerts and in turn the fan experience.
This lighting system will also interact with the fabric roof lighting system, allowing the roof to act as a giant canvas, capable of showcasing a variety of colours in numerous configurations including those of our home teams.
In terms of the sector as a whole, what are some of the current trends and latest innovations that you are tracking?
There have been many exciting developments in stadia technology and the ways in which TV displays, mobile devices and other technologies are used to enhance the fan experience.
The procurement of Perth Stadium’s technology was delayed until 2016 to ensure the Stadium includes the most advanced technology when it opens in early 2018.
Perth Stadium will incorporate state-of-the-art technology including two of the largest Stadium screens in the southern hemisphere at 340m2, more than 1,000 IPTV displays positioned throughout the venue and an advanced Wi-Fi solution allowing every fan to connect their mobile device to the Stadium network and utilise a Perth Stadium mobile app.
The Project Team along with venue operator VenuesLive and venue users are working together to customise the fan experience on game days. More details on these opportunities will be made in due course.
Additionally, safety and security considerations have also been top of mind throughout the project with the Project Team consulting extensively with the Emergency Services User Group, which comprises Police, Fire and Emergency services and First Aid providers to meet their requirements.
Perth Stadium has been designed to the Green Guide standard, which is regarded as the international benchmark for safety at sports ground and is a higher standard than the Building Code of Australia.
Ticketing control points are 40-50m from the curtilage of the stadium building meaning patrons will have their bags checked away from the edge of the building. They have also been designed so that should the Stadium require magnetic or x-ray screening (as at airports) this can occur away from the edge of the Stadium as part of an event overlay.
Vehicles can be screened at two points. Firstly, entry to Stadium Park will be via accreditation, which will be controlled by security or stewards. The second control will be a check to verify that the vehicle is accredited to park underneath the Stadium. If required, the second check point could allow for the car to be screened. This process is standard for major events such as the Commonwealth and Olympic Games.
The design of Perth Stadium and the surrounding Stadium Park has considered a range of scenarios in the event an emergency evacuation is required. This includes scenarios where there may be evacuations as a result of bomb and/or assailant threat. The operational plans and scenarios will be progressed with the contracted Stadium Operator, VenuesLive.
VenuesLive will continue to work very closely with Emergency Service personnel to undertake regular testing of emergency procedures. All venue staff will also receive the appropriate training ahead of the Stadium opening and on an ongoing basis.
Huge thanks to Ron Alexander, Director General – Department of Sport and Recreation and Co-Chair of the Perth Stadium Steering Committee, for taking the time to do this in-depth interview.
About Ron Alexander
Ron Alexander’s passion for sport, recreation, people and education has paved the way for him to forge a successful professional career. His journey crosses and weaves through many disciplines including education, professional sport, sport management, coaching and public service.
Ron was appointed Director General of the Western Australian Department of Sport and Recreation in 1999. He currently holds this position.
In his role as Director General at the Department of Sport and Recreation, Ron has overseen the development and implementation of the industry’s first ever five-year strategic plan, along with the State Sporting Facilities Plan. He has led the agency through significant change development and planning, which has seen the Department gain recognition for innovative action and getting things done. The Department has gained the status as the lead government department on a number of significant community and industry issues, including the new Perth Stadium project.
Recently completed major projects include:
Rugby WA Training and Administration Facility
State Basketball Centre
State Athletics Centre
State Softball Centre Upgrade
State Netball Centre
WAIS High Performance Centre
Ron currently co-chairs the Perth Stadium Steering Committee that oversees the development, design and negotiations of Perth Stadium being built in Burswood and which will be a world-class stadium in Perth and Australia. He’s a member of the Committee of Australian Sport and Recreation Officials (CASRO) which is responsible for planning and policy development in both Australia and New Zealand. Ron was instrumental in developing the WA State Infrastructure Plan, which has an emphasis on using sport and recreation to engage low socio-economic and disengaged families in the community. Ron has been a member of several government taskforces such as the WA Olympic Taskforce, and the working party on physical education and sport in WA schools. He is a board member of the WA Institute of Sport and was a member of the WA Eye Foundation Ethics Committee. Ron was a foundation board member at the Fremantle Football Club.
Starting in 1971, Ron played for and captained East Perth Football Club. Following the 1975 season he moved to Melbourne where he played for and captained the Fitzroy Football Club (Lions). The pull of the west saw him return to Perth in 1982, where he finished his playing career with the East Fremantle Football Club in 1985. Ron moved to coaching in the national league and recruited and coached the first Western Australian based AFL team, the West Coast Eagles.
Ron Alexander, Department of Sport and Recreation, 246 Vincent St, Leederville, WA 6007, Australia.
The Westadium Consortium is made up of the following members: John Laing (Equity Investor and Asset Manager), Brookfield Financial (arrange finance), Brookfield Multiplex (Design and Construction Sub-contractor), and Brookfield Johnson Controls (Facilities Manager, Sub-contractor).
There is a team of award-winning designers involved in the Stadium, including Cox Architects, Hassell, HKS and Arup – who have been credited with creating renowned sporting projects including the Sydney Cricket Ground, Adelaide Oval’s new western stand, USA’s biggest stadium – the 100,000 capacity AT&T Stadium in Texas – and the Beijing 2008 Olympic National Aquatics Centre ‘Bird’s Nest’.
Images, courtesy: Western Australian Department of Sport and Recreation / AFL
* NB: The new Perth Stadium will also have the honour of being the first stadium to be featured in the brand new ‘Venues’ section of the SVB Industry Directory, which has been specially created to provide stadia, arenas and other sports and entertainment facilities with a unique opportunity to showcase their key amenities and upcoming developments on a global stage. Make sure to check back later this week, when the dedicated ‘Venues’ section will go ‘live’ at: http://sportsvenuebusiness.com/index.php/category/directory/ *