Modern atmosphere to dictate NRL stadium plans

Midway through last year the New South Wales government reaffirmed plans to move away from funding suburban grounds and focus instead on three major stadia in Sydney.

Speaking after the NRL AGM on Friday, it prompted NRL CEO Dave Smith to label the allocated $600 million by the state government as a once-in-a-generation decision.

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Noting that contemporary experiences should win out when push comes to shove, Smith drew examples from his own personal experiences to push home his point.

"We need a network of stadiums that offer a contemporary experience for our fans so when you go there they're not too big, they're not too small – they are the right size and your wifi works. It's the contemporary version of what you used to get yesteryear when you sat on the hill," Smith said.

"I went to see the New York Rangers over Christmas in Madison Square Garden. There were 25,000 people within this amazing stadium, the entertainment was outstanding, there were more kids than you could shake a stick at – it was great. I've never watched ice hockey in my life but my kids and I loved it. 

"If we can recreate that in a modern way with the wonderful atmosphere we have across our big events, you'll see crowds grow exponentially. Melbourne is a city which has done a marvelous job over the past 25 years. Obviously Sydney isn't Melbourne but we have an opportunity to set a footprint to take care of the generations to come."

Smith said common sense should win out when it comes to redevelopments and new infrastructure. 

"Conventional wisdom suggests you build a stadium's capacity to be one and a half of your average crowd. What that means is that stadiums have gotten smaller because you're trying to create this atmospheric experience and invariably stadiums now will always be where people are, where restaurants and where shops are," Smith said.

"Now if you think about our game, our crowds range from 15,000 for arguments sake right up to 85,000 for the grand final so our content planning, our network of stadiums needs to cater for that. 

"For me, when you watch a game where the stadium is full – a bit like you saw at the World Club Challenge – where there were 20,000 there but also only 20,000 seats and the atmospheres were so much better than when you're forced to watch a game in a bigger stadium with a smaller crowd."