Australia’s top stadiums - An engineer's perspective
Australians love sports and for construction engineers, the best projects to work on are stadiums. They’re big, complex and when the Aconex finally goes silent and the last bolt is fixed, you actually get to enjoy them yourself!
But which are the best stadiums in Australia from an engineering perspective? In this article, I’ll list what I believe are the three most interesting and iconic sporting structures in the country.
1) Perth’s Optus Stadium
This list is in no specific order, but if it was Optus would be at the top. Not only has it been voted the world's 'Most Beautiful' Sporting Facility, but the building and the surrounding precinct is friggin’ cool!
Optus can seat 60,000 spectators and boasts some pretty awesome facilities. The entire stadium receives 4G coverage, and over 1000 individual TV screens and 340 m2 of super screens make it impossible to miss a second of the game. Safe to say, the electrical engineers had a few late nights on this one…
And what about that roof?! The ‘halo’ roof design is made to look like it’s floating above the seating bowl and covers 85% of seats in the stadium. It’s built out of a double layer of fabrics supported by 50 cantilever triangular trusses spanning 35m made from tubular steel.
The trusses are able to span so far yet remain robust due to the vierendeel truss design of their bottom webs. This means the roof can remain laterally stiff without the need for in-plane bracing. It also achieves robustness in the case of a local segment failure, avoiding any kind of progressive collapse. This approach also saves on steel tonnage as diagonal braces between trusses aren't needed!
All in all, the roof of Optus stadium contains some pretty awesome engineering and construction processes to get it all in place. As a sports lover and Melbourniuan, it took some convincing, but after watching the 2021 AFL grand final in Perth (Go Dees!) I was sold!
2) The MCG
No list of Australian sporting arenas would be complete without mentioning the MCG. The oval-shaped Melbourne Cricket Ground can seat over 100,000 spectators and comes highly decorated. From AFL Grand Finals, Boxing day cricket test matches, Commonwealth Games, the Olympics in 1956 and even becoming a make-shift barracks for thousands of U.S Marines in WWII, the MCG has seen it all! So while it’s not the most spectacular entry for engineering, its history and persistence earned it a spot on my list.
What’s interesting about the MCG structure is that it’s not one continuous structure. From it's humble beginnings as a single clubhouse watching over Police Paddock in 1853, the 'G' has been built up piece by piece into what it is today. Over the course of its history, it’s actually been a varying amount of individual structures linked together.
The Great Southern Stand is the largest of these structures and runs around ~ one-third of the ground. It’s flanked by two massive big screens providing visibility to the entire 100,000 spectators.
UPDATE: The tragic passing of Australian legend Shane Warne sparked the MCG to rename this stand the 'Shane Warne Stand'. This is a fantastic memorial to a man who brought so much joy to the spectators sitting in this stand over the years, and another piece of history that'll stay with the 'G' for decades to come.
The historic MCC members stand sits at the north of the stadium and has been through a few iterations since the 1800s. Most recently in 2002-6, the MCC along with the Ponsford and Olympic Stands were demolished to make way for the Northern grandstand. The norther stand is now one continuous structure around the northern boundary of the stand.
The intricacies of the MCG's development are pretty incredible when you dig into them, and that's why I had to include it in my list. Check out this cool summary of the ground's evolution here for more images and information!
3) Sydney Football Stadium (In construction)
The new Sydney Football stadium is currently being built on the site of the old Sydney Sports Ground. It will be the new jewel in the crown of Sydney’s sporting scene. The rectangular stadium was planned to be a timber diagrid roof, however, cost limitations meant the design changed to be a more traditional steel diagrid roof shell. The stadium is set to seat 40,000 to 45,000 spectators, all of whom will be completely covered by the roof!
Currently, in construction, the roof actually consists of 4 individual diagrid shells which are supported by four massive derricks at the stadium's corners, and 4 steel arches at their inner edges. The shells are then pulled together by a massive steel tension ring that runs around the outer perimeter of the roof, holding it in shape.
The project was highly politically contentious at the time of breaking ground, and for this reason it has many naysayers. But putting that aside, the structure has some serious engineering and construction behind it that can't be ignored. The new Sydney Football Stadium is sure to be one of Australia's finest when complete!
1) Ken Rosewall Arena in Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre (redevelopment)
2) AAMI Park in Melbourne
3) Country Bank Stadium in Townsville
4) Adelaide Oval
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