Home sweet rectangular home

Spring-like sunshine and an impossibly blue sky light the lush green grass of Gosch’s Paddock on the walk along Olympic Boulevard.

Spring-like sunshine and an impossibly blue sky light the lush green grass of Gosch’s Paddock on the walk along Olympic Boulevard.

Interrupting the endless blue sky is the facade of the newest addition to the menagerie of Melbourne-s world-class sports facilities, rippling bubbles of bone-white metal spreading freely, surrounding the stadium’s inner design.

The grace of the exterior belies the 2,500 tonnes of steel used in its construction, and will eventually, from the outside, almost entirely disguise the 35,000 cubic metres of concrete that forms the stadium’s innards.

When at capacity, a bio-frame roof fitted with thousands of programmable LED lights will provide extensive weather-protection for the 30,000-plus crowds.

Elite training, recovery and medical facilities, lap pool, vast office space, 1000-person dining room and 24 corporate suites will be housed within the new environmentally conscious stadium.

The design feats and aesthetic results are astounding, as is the stadium’s very existence, merely five years after the re-launch of an Australian domestic football league.

The idea of a purpose-built, world-class rectangular facility in the heart of oval-sports country would have been considered deeply incongruous just years ago.

The $267.5 million government venture is recognition of Melbourne Victory’s hitherto achievement and the immovable presence of football in the state.

Standing inside, on the arid ground on which locally-grown turf will be laid, the MCG is clearly seen through a gap in the construction, as if a purposely-left visual reference to the stadium-s imposition in an AFL town.

The humming of work trucks, clanking chains of cranes, and shrieking of power tools constant sounds of progress of football in the region.

Melbourne Victory captain Kevin Muscat has been a part of the football revolution since its incepetion. As a high-profile Socceroo, his initial faith in the Hyundai A-League has been vindicated.

“As a kid, and even coming back five years ago, I would never have thought I-d be playing in a rectangular stadium – a proper football stadium – that rivals most stadiums in Europe,” he effuses, as we look equally amiss in our matching hardhats and incandescent safety vests.

“It-s going to be 30-odd thousand, dare I say that we’ll fill most of the games at home. Hopefully the sold out sign is up quite a few times. The actual stadium itself, right through from surface, to looks, to comfort, as I said, is going to rival most, or quite a few, of where our international stars ply their trade now.”

Replicating the quality of playing conditions available overseas is integral to the Hyundai A-League-s continued growth. The new stadium provides a valuable selling point for recruiting players of increased quality and selling Australia as a worthy stage for the World Cup.

Muscat waits expectedly for the end to Melbourne Victory’s transitory existence that the new stadium will bring. In his years at the club, the team’s headquarters, training base and home ground have been spread across three different locations. Though this hasn’t stopped Melbourne Victory becoming the most successful club in Hyundai A-League history.

“Having a purpose-built, rectangular stadium that we can actually call home – we-ll be training here, we-ll be coming here for all our meetings, we-ll live here basically,” he says. “Having somewhere we can actually call home will be a massive advantage for us. And, personally, I can-t wait.”

Etihad Stadium has served as a more-than-worthy home for Melbourne Victory, enabling them to set attendance records which fellow Hyundai A-League clubs aren’t in a position to rival.

“When Etihad Stadium is at its best, after the football the season… the conditions of that stadium, the surface and the stadium itself is second to none,” Muscat attests.

But the new stadium will bring a stronger sense of belonging: a dwelling built with express consideration for its tenants, cementing football’s identity in Victoria.

Accustomed to watching beyond the running track of Olympic Park, or from behind stretches of grass left by the white-lined creation of a rectangular pitch on the oval surface of the Docklands, for many Victorian-based Hyundai A-League supporters, watching football on a rectangular stadium will be foreign.

This unmatched supporter-base encouraged the stadium’s construction.

“I think the reality is now when you see the membership, the attendances that we’re generating here in Melbourne, I suppose the cream on top of the cake is the stadium,” Muscat says in tribute to Melbourne Victory fans.

Muscat is still unsure whether he-ll set foot on the new pitch in a playing capacity but despite his awe for the new facility, it doesn-t come into calculations about his future. “No, it certainly won-t influence my decision,” he states.

“I-m going to be involved in the football club one way or another when this stadium is open. The idea is to make the best football stadium in this country a cauldron for Melbourne Victory.”

Build it and they will come. Melbourne Victory can be sure of this, as its legion of support have already done so in the four years of the club’s existence. But as of next year, the Melbourne Victory contingent of support will converge on a new home.

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