Melbourne Rectangular Stadium
"AAMI Park" redirects here. For the stadium in Adelaide known as "AAMI Stadium", see Football Park. The Melbourne Rectangular Stadium (commercially known as AAMI Park ) is an outdoor sports stadium on the site of Edwin Flack Field on Olympic Boulevard in the Sports and Entertainment Precinct, in inner Melbourne, Australia. The stadium's major tenants are the Melbourne Storm ( NRL), Melbourne Rebels ( Super Rugby) and A-League teams Melbourne Victory and Melbourne Heart. AAMI Park became Melbourne's first large purpose built rectangular stadium. At the time of its conception the largest stadiums in use - the MCG, Docklands Stadium and Princes Park which were all of oval configuration and best suited to Australian rules football or cricket. The largest rectangular stadium in the city, Olympic Park, was a repurposed track and field venue with poor facilities. After being referred to as Melbourne Rectangular Stadium during its construction, the ground was officially named AAMI Park on 16 March 2010, in an eight year sponsorship deal with the insurance firm.

Melbourne, despite its long history with sport, had lacked a stadium purpose built for football codes which use a rectangular playing field, with many rectangular field sports being played at unsuitably configured venues, because Olympic Park Stadium, the city's main 'rectangular' venue, could only hold 18,500 people, with only 11,000 of them seated. It was also was unsuitably configured due to the field being surrounded by an athletics track. When Melbourne Storm entered the National Rugby League, they played their home games at Olympic Park. It was found too small for a rugby league ground, with the ground being narrower and shorter in the in goal areas than a normal ground. Melbourne Victory, who attracted healthy crowds at Olympic Park in their first season, moved a game to Docklands Stadium against rivals Sydney FC in September 2006 and played in front of a then record home and away crowd of 39,730. After the next game at Olympic Park which nearly sold out the venue, the Victory found Olympic Park's capacity too small. They moved all their games except one from Olympic Park to Docklands mid way through the season. In 2004, as part of Melbourne's bid for a Super 14 team, the Victorian Government prepared an economic impact study into the development of a world class rectangular stadium in Melbourne. But the bid lost out the Western Australian consortium in late 2004, who later renamed themselves the Western Force. But in November 2009, when the competition expanded to 15 teams, the Melbourne consortium won the 15th Super Rugby licence, and the Melbourne Rebels will play their games at AAMI Park. On 6 April 2006, the Victorian Government announced that a $190 million 20,000 seat rectangular stadium would be built on the site of Edwin Flack Field and would be home to Melbourne Storm and A-League team Melbourne Victory. Capacity issues raised by Melbourne Victory (see below) forced the stadium's planned capacity to be increased to 30,000, with foundations capable of expansion to a capacity of 50,000 if needed. The stadium began construction in late 2007. On 23 November 2009, it was announced the stadium's first match would be the rugby league ANZAC Test (Australia vs New Zealand) on 7 May 2010. The stadium was referred to as Melbourne Rectangular Stadium, Swan Street Stadium or the Bubble Dome during its early construction. The stadium's commercial name was announced as AAMI Park on 16 March 2010 in an eight year deal. The stadium held its first event, rugby league's 2010 ANZAC Test on 7 May 2010. The opening ceremony featured retired player and the NRL's all-time highest point-scorer, Hazem El Masri, kicking a goal. Australia then went on to defeat New Zealand 12-8 in front of a sell out crowd. Two days later the first National Rugby League match was played at the stadium when the Brisbane Broncos defeated the Melbourne Storm. On 7 August 2010, the stadium played host to its first A-League match. It was also another first as Melbourne Heart FC played their first game in front of 11,050 fans against the Central Coast Mariners. The Heart lost 1-0, and Alex Wilkinson had the honour of scoring the first goal.

The new stadium features a distinctive "Bioframe" design, with a geodesic dome roof covering much of the seating area, while still allowing light through to the pitch. The northern and southern sides of the stadiums are called the Olympic Side and Yarra Side respectively. The exterior of the stadium is also covered in thousands of LED lights, which can be programmed to display a variety of patterns and images, setting it on par with the Beijing National Aquatics Center and Allianz Arena. The stadium includes training facilities and office accommodation for Melbourne Storm, Melbourne Victory, Melbourne Football Club, the Victorian Rugby Union, the Victorian Olympic Council, Olympic Park Sports Medicine Centre (OPSMC), and Tennis Victoria. The stadium will be used by the Melbourne Demons as their administration headquarters. The team had wanted the stadium completed by 2008 to coincide with its 150th anniversary. It will also house public bars and cafes, 24 corporate boxes, a dining room with a capacity of 1000 people, a gym and lap pool.

The stadium was initially proposed to have seating capacity of 20,000, upgradeable to 25,000. This was due to both expected demand, as well as a state government agreement with Docklands Stadium that no stadiums with a capacity greater than 30,000 would be constructed in Melbourne before 2010. These plans were revised after the Melbourne Victory refused to commit to playing at a stadium of such small capacity, having achieved an average attendance of over 27,000 since their move to the Docklands Stadium in the 2006”“07 A-League Season (reduced to 21,105 for the 2009-10 season). Under the new plans put forward by the Victorian Government, a capacity of 30,050 was proposed, on the condition that the Victory sign on as a tenant. An agreement has since been reached between the two parties for the stadium to have a capacity of 30,050. To assist with the extended capacity, temporary stands will be erected behind the goals during soccer matches and removed during rugby league games so as to allow space for the in-goal area. Although the stadium will be built with foundations to allow for future expansion to 50,000, the roof was not designed with this in mind and so the stadium cannot be expanded without major construction works. There has also been much campaigning by Victory supporters and soccer supporters in general, to have temporary terrace-style standing room installed in the design. The plan is based upon the common feature of German stadia in which the stand behind each/one goal is constructed with the option of having standing room during soccer matches and normal seating for other events such as rugby league. The Storm, who previously played at Olympic Park Stadium (which was the lowest capacity NRL stadium) now have the fifth largest stadium in the NRL, surpassed only by Sydney Football Stadium, Sydney Cricket Ground, Suncorp Stadium and ANZ Stadium. The largest crowd so far is for the first game played at the stadium, the ANZAC Test which drew 29,442 spectators. The next highest attendance was between Melbourne Heart and Melbourne Victory in the inaugural Melbourne Derby in the 2010-11 A-League season which drew 25,897 spectators.


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