Pull the other one: Let’s not pretend Labor will build a roof on Accor Stadium

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I am convinced the NSW Minister for Sport, Steve Kamper, is auditioning for the next season of the ABC comedy ‘Utopia’.

How else would you explain his random thought bubble this week that Sydney’s Accor Stadium should have a roof on it?

Sports fans have been saying this for almost as long as the stadium has stood at Sydney Olympic Park, but it took a trip to Las Vegas to watch the NRL for Kamper to be convinced.

You would think someone with the title of Sports Minister would be well across the long-time issue of stadiums and roofs well before his jaunt to Vegas.

I mean let’s not forget he could have jumped on a quick flight to Melbourne to see how well the retractable roof at Marvel Stadium works, and the benefit it provides to concerts and sporting events.

“I had a look at what type of roof they have at Allegiant and how it potentially would suit Accor. A roof at Accor is something we’re seriously looking at,” Kamper told The Daily Telegraph.

Sports Minister Steve Kamper.

Kamper believes that not having a roof on a stadium in Sydney could impact its ability to hold major events.

“If you have a facility that can’t protect against that, then there’s a great chance that you could lose a lot of great performers and content that is so valuable for our economy,” he said.

It’s an interesting comment.

Especially given it appears to have had little impact so far.

Sydney has hosted an Olympic Games, Grand Finals, State of Origin matches, the Women’s World Cup and a plethora of international acts like Taylor Swift.

And as much as some of those events have, at times, been impacted heavily by the weather, it hasn’t really stopped Sydney’s efforts in attracting major events.

In fact, it was curious to see Business Sydney Executive Director Paul Nicolaou suggest a roof would help attract the likes of Beyonce and Ed Sheeran, and possibly the NFL.

Sheeran literally performed at the roofless Accor Stadium last year.

Meantime, about a dozen NFL teams still play at roofless stadiums during the American winter. A roof is unlikely to be a deciding factor in a visit to Australia.

Would a roof be nice? Absolutely. Nobody is denying that.

But it’ll never happen because while Kamper may have been caught up in the euphoria of Vegas, he forgot one simple thing: the astronomical cost.

For a government that loathes spending money on stadiums and has been dragged kicking and screaming to fund the Penrith Stadium upgrade (and will deliver the worst of the possible outcomes in the process), the suggestion that Labor will put a roof on Accor Stadium is simply laughable.

A suggestion that is not new, either.

You can go back as far as 2014 to read stories similar to the one that lobbed on Monday, quoting all sorts of figures and talking heads about a roof on the stadium.

Kamper is just the latest in a long line.

Let’s not forget the wild journey we took with the previous Liberal Government when it came to Stadium Australia.

First, an announcement in 2015 of a major upgrade “within the next decade”, that would have included a retractable roof.

Then in 2017, confirmation the stadium would be completely knocked down and re-built.

The following year, we were back to a refurbishment only, at a cost of $800 million.

Then in 2020, the complete abandonment of any major upgrade at all.

Along the way, back in 2016, one proposal suggested a cost of around $350 million to put a roof on the stadium and return the venue to a rectangular shape.

Imagine the cost today.

Kamper was careful in the words he used to the media this week because he knows this will never happen.

Hence, the ‘Utopia’ reference.

Seriously, Sydney’s stadium dramas could be a storyline that lasts an entire season.

Accor Stadium will host the Grand Final again. Photo: NRL Images.

The amount of things that have been announced, cancelled, re-announced and cancelled again over the past decade or so is simply astounding. There’s enough artist’s impressions floating around to fill a large gallery.

Along the way Labor have stood opposed to the Sydney Football Stadium redevelopment, essentially building an entire election campaign around it, and are stuck doing one-year deals with the NRL when it comes to the Grand Final because they won’t deliver suburban stadium funding that is so desperately needed.

At some stage, Premier Chris Minns needs to get the smartest people possible in the room and come up with a stadium strategy for Sydney that is set in stone once and for all.

I dare say that should include halting the $300 million Penrith Stadium spend until such a strategy is finalised.

If a roof on Accor Stadium is part of the plan, that’s wonderful.

But you can’t have your Sports Minister just randomly suggesting a roof was under serious consideration while he’s on the other side of the world.

It’s not helpful and just further confuses the government’s stance on stadium spending.

And to finish, if I could just burst the bubble of the whole Allegiant Stadium love affair of the past week.

That beautiful Las Vegas venue cost an extraordinary $2 billion to build; about $3.6 billion Australian dollars.

That’s for a venue with a capacity of 65,000 (expandable to 72,000).

That roof may look damn cool, but it was bloody expensive.

Labor won’t even match the original $300 million commitment to Penrith in real terms / today’s money.

Let’s not pretend their about to splash around cash for a roof at Accor Stadium.

Kamper certainly auditioned well for ‘Utopia’.

In fact, I reckon he got the part.

Steve Kamper at Penrith Stadium.

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