The Western Bulldogs have completed a comprehensive master plan for a reimagined Whitten Oval precinct.
The future of the Bulldogs’ West Footscray home will be the centrepiece of Melbourne’s west, a home for an elite sporting club and a common place for the community.
It will be an inviting, contemporary and cutting-edge place to work, recreate, explore, relax and connect, which caters for the changing face of the region.
The master plan is anticipated to be completed over a number of stages.
“Our master plan reflects the Club’s long-term vision of the Whitten Oval precinct as a hub for the west that attracts and connects our community to the football Club and gives us the best chance of success on and off the field,” said Bulldogs CEO Ameet Bains.
“A redeveloped precinct will provide an amazing base for our four teams, and we expect the football facilities to be a huge drawcard for the Club keeping and attracting star players.”
The first stage, which has already been completed with the assistance of state government funding, saw upgrades to the Club’s AFLW changerooms and facilities, and the installation of a new scoreboard.
At the next stage the Club aims to complete substantial redevelopment work, which is expected to cost between $40-$45 million, and will include:
- Slight reconfiguration and upgrade of the VU Whitten Oval playing surface.
- An increase of the spectator capacity of the VU Whitten Oval.
- Enhancement to the spectator amenities at the venue and improvement of the experience of people visiting the precinct.
- Rebuilding of the Whitten Stand with new function facilities and dedicated community spaces for the programs run by the Western Bulldogs Community Foundation.
- Upgrades to the administration and football department facilities and museum.
- Broadcast quality lighting upgrade.
- Creation of an open, environmentally-friendly and welcoming public space, including a renewed entry plaza, and running track.
- The development of a secondary venue, also in Footscray, with training facilities for our four teams to train on, taking pressure off the ground.
“Our immediate focus is to improve the experience of watching football at the venue to ensure that VU Whitten Oval remains one of the key AFL priority venues for AFLW matches,” Bains said.
“This includes the rebuilding of the Whitten Stand with upgraded Club facilities for football, administration and community, as well as dedicated function facilities overlooking the ground and the city.
“It will also involve a slightly re-oriented playing surface and broadcast lighting quality, something the AFL has committed to investing in, given it sees the ground as a model venue for AFLW matches, especially at night.”
A significant capital contribution to this next stage will come from the Club itself, which is likely to be underpinned by its intended exit from gaming and its stronger trading performance and eradication of debt over the past five years.
The Club is in the process of presenting a compelling business case to the State Government for further assistance with the project.
Future stages of the redevelopment have been made possible by a valuable parcel of land at the Geelong Road end of the precinct, which was transferred to the Club to enable a larger Whitten Oval footprint to be developed.
The further stages contemplate a number of aspects, including a range of food and beverage options, a broader health hub for medical, fitness and enhanced childcare services to provide more amenities for the local community and a strengthening of long-term partner, Victoria University’s presence on site. Also contemplated is the development of residential towers designed to take advantage of the proximity to West Footscray station and the growing demand for high-quality inner-city accommodation in West Footscray, along with greater pedestrian and bike connectivity throughout the precinct and its surrounds
The Club believes that in the longer-term, a redeveloped VU Whitten Oval for AFLW with increased capacity and a first-class match-day experience, could see the return of the occasional heritage game to the venue given the many secondary market location venues around the country that currently host AFL football matches.
“We would love to see the occasional heritage AFL match return to the ground in time,” Bains said.
“This year we celebrate the 30-year anniversary of the famous Fightback campaign of 1989.
“To be embarking on such an exciting and ambitious project to redevelop the Whitten Oval precinct is a special opportunity which shows how far we’ve come as a club, and underlines our commitment to ensuring we provide elite facilities for our football teams and to service our members and fans, local residents and the community of the west.”
The Club’s ultimate ambition is to make the Whitten Oval precinct the heart of the community - an everyday precinct to spectate, celebrate and discover. The redevelopment will ensure that new generations can enjoy the Western Bulldogs’ home ground, create new and lasting memories, and retain a strong understanding of the Club’s history.
The next steps for the Club are to undertake more detailed design on the proposed next stage of redevelopment, over the next few months, while running a series of sessions with the view of engaging our members and fans, local residents who live near the precinct and other key stakeholders, about the details of the project. Details of this process will be outlined in the coming weeks.