Growing up I felt a little out of place in my sports-obsessed family. I liked playing sport but not watching it.
I recall endless summers being bored out of my brains while my father, brother and grandfather absorbed any type of sport that was on television at the time.
I was a late bloomer to watching sport and it all came about when I started going to see the Western Sydney Wanderers and Parramatta Eels matches with my young daughter at Parramatta Stadium.
Going with her allowed me to see the excitement and feel the rush of being part of the tribe. The atmosphere was electric.
One of the great things about going to watch a game there is the way it brings the streets alive.
Restaurants and cafes nearby fill up. Heads turn as the Red and Black Bloc march down the streets chanting “We’re from the streets of Western Sydney.”
Game days animate the whole city and access to the stadium is easy and convenient.
Great cities need great entertainment precincts.
Interstate, Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane has Caxton Street, with countless restaurants and bars with the area coming alive on game day. Overseas the LA Live precinct does this on a much bigger canvas with ballrooms, theatres and restaurants.
There is no reason why we cannot recreate this at ANZ Stadium. We should be further enhancing the precinct.
This year the stadium has seen 57 sporting and entertainment events with more than 1.7 million fans through the gates.
The Olympic Park precinct was built on an epic scale. Despite the efforts of the best urban designers of the time, some parts of the precinct lack the vitality and soul of an urban place. At ANZ Stadium, people get off the train to be greeted by a sea of endless pavers.
ANZ has a vast circular template that has created lifeless unusable spaces around the perimeter. The redesign of the stadium provides us with the opportunity to rethink these spaces and introduce new uses.
The rebuild of the stadium and the investments in building a West Metro and light rail line through the precinct will make it easier and faster to attend and will drive patronage.
The new stadium will give us an opportunity to fix the major urban design challenges in the Sydney Olympic Park Precinct.
We should explore ways of reducing the stadium bill cost by capturing value around the stadium.
The great promise of rebuilding ANZ is the opportunity to rethink to fill in these dead spaces with life and activity, with buildings and people.
The Olympic boulevard should be a vital, busy part of our city and we can turn this around by conceiving new uses and public spaces.
This opinion piece was published in the Sydney Morning Herald, 7 December, 2017