Docklands Stadium (also known by its former sponsored names of Colonial Stadium and Telstra Dome and its current sponsorship name of Etihad Stadium) is a multi-purpose sports and entertainment stadium in the Docklands precinct of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Construction started in October 1997 under the working name, "Victoria Stadium" and was completed in 2000 at a cost of A$460 million.

Originally built as a replacement for Waverley Park, the stadium is primarily used for Australian rules football and is the headquarters of the Australian Football League (AFL) who, as part of the construction deal, assume ownership of the ground in 2025. Also headquartered at the stadium is Seven Network's digital broadcast centre.

The stadium has been host to other sporting events, including Melbourne Victory soccer matches, one-off matches for sports including cricket, rugby league and rugby union, and several specialised events and concerts.

The stadium has been controversial since its first construction and there has been a significant amount of criticism directed toward the facility, particularly from its major tenant, the AFL. The AFL have increasingly regarded the stadium owner as a hostile landlord, engaging in numerous lawsuits against the current owners and threatening to build a rival stadium as close as a kilometre away in the short-term.


The stadium was announced on 31 October 1996 as a replacement for the much larger Waverley Park as a headquarters for the Australian Football League. The opening match was played between Essendon and Port Adelaide before a crowd of 43,012. Eventual premiers of that season, Essendon, ended up victorious by 94 points, with full-forward Matthew Lloyd (who was booked in the second quarter of that match for striking) kicking seven goals. Originally developed by the Docklands Stadium Consortium and thereafter controlled by the Seven Network, the remaining leasehold interest in the stadium was sold to James Fielding Funds Management on 21 June 2006 for A$330 million. In 2025 the AFL is expected to take over the ownership.

Like Waverley it was built for Australian rules football, unlike most grounds of a similar size in Australia which were originally designed for cricket.

In 2000, the first indoor One Day International was held when the Australian cricket team played South Africa in the "Super Challenge". It has been a venue for usually off-season one day matches but it held VB Series matches in 2006 due to the Melbourne Cricket Ground being unavailable due to preparations for it being the main stadium for the 2006 Commonwealth Games.

The stadium is the first stadium to have movable seating in Australia. All four level-one tiers of the stadium can be moved up to 18 metres forward into a rectangular configuration. It was first used for a Melbourne Storm game in July 2001. Despite the seating being a key feature of the stadium, it has rarely been used, citing damage to turf, time to deploy the seats and a reduced capacity (the corners of the stadium in level 1 are not movable).

The last time it was used in its rectangular configuration was the 2010 A-League Grand Final between Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC.

The first AFL goal at this ground was kicked by Essendon's Michael Long, in Essendon's 94-point demolition of Port Adelaide on 9 March 2000. West Coast player Mark LeCras holds the record for most goals kicked in a single match at this ground, with 12. St Kilda player Stephen Milne holds the record for most goals kicked at this ground overall, with 304 (as of 27 August 2011), five more than Matthew Lloyd of Essendon.

One-off events

Events that have been held at the Docklands Stadium include concerts by many famous artists.

KISS performed on 28 February 2003, with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, for their live CD/DVD, Kiss Symphony: Alive IV.

Other events include wrestling (World Wrestling Entertainment Global Warning, 2002) and boxing (Kostya Tszyu vs Jesse James Leilya, 2003).

The stadium is the one of the two in the world that has hosted One Day International cricket indoors, as it is the only fully enclosed stadium in any major cricket playing country with a playing surface large enough to accommodate a conventional cricket match. The other stadium to have hosted an Indoor Cricket match is Millennium Stadium in Wales.

The ground hosted two quarter finals of the 2003 Rugby World Cup and the Rugby 7s at the 2006 Commonwealth Games. The stadium was used in the 2008 Rugby League World Cup for the Australia vs England game. In the summer months it is used as the home ground for Melbourne Victory games in the A-League and the AFC Champions League. The stadium is used for Rugby League State of Origin matches when they are played in Melbourne. This ground will host the opening match of the 2012 series, earmarked as a New South Wales home game.

The stadium hosted a match from the International Rules Series in 2005 (due to the MCG undergoing works for the Commonwealth Games) and will host another in 2011. Since 2003, it has been the venue for the E. J. Whitten Legends Game.

In 2001, Melbourne Knights and South Melbourne Hellas staged the first and only National Soccer League game to be held at this stadium.

On 1 and 3 December 2010, U2 played their Melbourne shows of the U2 360° Tour at the stadium with Jay Z as their support act. The stage was so large that the roof could not be closed.

In December 2010, legendary New Jersey rockers Bon Jovi played the stadium as part of The Circle Tour.

The stadium hosted the Armin van Buuren Armin Only Mirage event on 31 December 2010.

Home teams

The Docklands Stadium is officially home ground to five AFL teams. The Western Bulldogs, Carlton, Essendon, St Kilda and North Melbourne use the stadium as their primary home ground. Collingwood and Richmond, also play home games there, but their official home ground is the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Geelong also use it for a number of home games, but the club's home ground is Skilled Stadium in Geelong. The AFL highest home and away attendance recorded at the Docklands Stadium was set on 5 July 2009 when 54,444 people attended to see St. Kilda and Geelong play in Round 14 as they were 1st and 2nd, respectively, on the AFL ladder.

Melbourne Victory also occasionally play matches at Docklands. Originally, the plan was that the stadium would only be used for A-League games against the Victory's biggest rivals Sydney FC in the 2006/07 A-League season due to the prediction of a large crowd. All other games were supposed to be at the Victory's usual home ground, Olympic Park Stadium. Due to the success of the game, a record crowd of 39,730 attended the game. Due to the success of the game, the Victory found Olympic Park's capacity of 18,000 too small, especially after the Round 4 match at Olympic Park attracted a capacity crowd of 17,617. Melbourne then moved all their home games bar one against the struggling New Zealand Knights to Docklands for the 2006/07 season. The move was a success, with a 27,000 crowd average. The Victory decided to move all their home games permanently from the 2007/08 season. This also gave the stadium a major summer tenant, of which the stadium lacked in its early years.

Melbourne Victory continued to play all games at Docklands until the end of the 2009/10 season, when their new home at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium was completed. The Victory will play blockbuster and finals games at Docklands, with all other games being played at the new stadium. The Victory will play five blockbuster games against Gold Coast United, Adelaide United (twice), Sydney FC and Melbourne Heart.Melbourne Victory also set the second largest sporting attendance record at the Docklands Stadium, 55,436, set against Adelaide United for the A-League grand final in 2007.

In the 2001 NRL season it was the home ground for the Melbourne Storm, with the board thinking that they had outgrown Olympic Park. The move was a failure, and despite healthy crowds they could not get anymore than 15,000 to their games. The board decided to move back to Olympic Park Stadium in 2002. It also played host to their first three home games of the 2010 NRL season until AAMI Park was complete. Also until the end of 2009, the stadium was also used as the Storm's home finals venue due to the low capacity of its then normal home ground, Olympic Park Stadium (preliminary finals must be played in a 25,000 seat venue). It remains to be seen if the Storm will play future finals here or at their new home ground, AAMI Park, as this will largely depend on required capacity as well. This will not likely be answered until at least 2011 though, due to the Storm's current, ongoing salary cap scandal.

In 2011, it was announced that new Big Bash League side Melbourne Renegades would play its home games at the Docklands Stadium.

Naming rights history

The stadium was constructed by Baulderstone Hornibrook and opened on 9 March 2000, as Colonial Stadium. Colonial State Bank paid $32.5 million for 10 years of naming rights. In 2000, Commonwealth Bank took over Colonial State Bank and sold the naming rights to Telstra for about $50 million. The name was changed to Telstra Dome on 1 October 2002. During this time it was colloquially referred to as simply "The Dome", including by clubs who are sponsored by rival telecommunications companies (such as Essendon, who at the time were sponsored by 3). On 1 March 2009 the name was changed to Etihad Stadium, for an expected period of five years, when the naming rights transferred to Etihad Airways.Etihad Airways are paying an estimated $5–$8 million a year for naming rights at the Docklands stadium. Controversy surrounds the new name, with the AFL initially refusing to recognise it. AFL chief operating officer Gillon McLachlan confirmed the AFL would not recognise the new name due to a lucrative sponsorship deal between the AFL and Australia's largest airline, Qantas. After negotiation between the two parties, AFL broadcasters and clubs are permitted by the governing body to use the stadium's sponsored name.

Stadium features
  • Retractable roof 38 metres (125 ft) above the playing surface, opens east-west, and takes eight minutes to fully open or close.
  • Movable seating
  • Two large internal replay screens which display scores and advertisements.
  • External super screen
  • 1000 video seats
  • 13 function rooms
  • 66 corporate boxes
  • Premium Club membership area, The Medallion Club
  • 500 car parking spaces below the ground
  • Oval shaped, turf playing surface of 19,053 square metres (205,080 sq ft) or 170 by 140 m (560 by 460 ft)
  • Over 700 2000-watt lights for arena illumination
  • A varying capacity of between 12,000 and 74,000, depending on the event. For example seats can be laid on the ground.
  • An AFL capacity of 53,359
  • Dimensions of playing area are 159.5 metres by 128.5 metres (174.4 yards by 140.5 yards)
  • The ends of the ground, where the AFL goal posts are located, are generally named after VFL/AFL goal-kicking legends Tony 'Plugger' Lockett and Gordon Coventry. The northern end is the Lockett End, and the southern end, the Coventry End. These names are subject to changed as appropriate for circumstances: for Essendon home matches, the Coventry End is renamed the Lloyd End, and for VFL games, the ends are renamed after VFA/VFL goal-kicking legends Jim 'Frosty' Miller and Fred Cook.

Several issues with the Docklands Stadium have caused growing resentment within the Australian Football League and prompted the league to publicly investigate an alternative third venue. At times this venue has been suggested as a redeveloped Princes Park Football Ground or a rival stadium in the Docklands area.

Playing surface issues

Since its inception, the Docklands Stadium has endured criticism over the quality and suitability of its playing surface, in particular for AFL requirements. It has been criticised by players and coaches for its slipperiness, hardness and lack of grass coverage. The turf has required regular expensive replacement since its inception due to a lack of sunlight inside the stadium. The turf itself is supplied under contract by HG Turf, whereas the responsibility of laying and managing the turf lies with Docklands Stadium management.

Issues with the ground's ability to grow grass all year round can be attributed to the stadium's irregular North-South orientation which was a requirement due to its placement between the surrounding roads and Docklands body of water. In particular, the Northern end of the stadium only receives 6 weeks of sunlight a year. Concerts held at the stadium are also usually placed at the Southern end due to the ability for grass to recover faster in that section of the ground.

In August 2007, Docklands Stadium chief executive Ian Collins confirmed talks were underway to purchase an elaborate lighting and heating system to allow grass to be grown by curators all year round. This followed extensive visits by Docklands Stadium officials to several FIFA World Cup venues in Germany, locations in the United States and Arsenal's new Emirates Stadium.

Studies have also been conducted due to concerns that hard surfaces like the surface at the Docklands Stadium increase the likelihood of player injury, in particular in contributing to anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries (knee).


Despite being a purpose-built Australian rules football venue, it rarely reaches a full capacity for AFL matches due to the positioning of the coaching boxes and LCD screens. From some areas high in the stands and even standing areas, viewing of the full oval is obscured. This, however does not affect sports which use a smaller rectangular section of the ground.

Additionally, spectators have objected to high food costs at the venue.

Attendance records
  • Largest attendance Catholic Jubilee Mass 15 November 2000 70,000 people
  • Largest entertainment event attendance Robbie Williams Close Encounters Tour 18 December 2006 64,619 people "Etihad Stadium Records". 
  • Largest sporting event attendance WWE Global Warning – 10 August 2002 56,700 people
  • Largest Rugby Union attendance 2001 British Lions tour to Australia second test, 7 July 2001 Australia vs British and Irish Lions 56,605 people
  • Largest ODI Cricket attendance Commonwealth Bank Series 38,364 people
  • Largest A-League attendance Grand Final, 18 February 2007 Melbourne Victory vs Adelaide United 55,436 people
  • Largest Rugby League attendance State of Origin Game III, 5 July 2006 Queensland vs New South Wales 54,833 people
  • Largest AFL attendance Round 14, 5 July 2009 St Kilda vs Geelong 54,444 people
  • Largest NRL attendance Preliminary final, 23 September 2007 Melbourne Storm vs Parramatta 33,427 people
  • Largest International Rules attendance 2nd test, 28 October 2005 Australia vs Ireland 45,428 people
In popular culture

The venue appeared in the 2007 film Ghost Rider. Its name, wherever visible, has been digitally changed to the SoBe Dome. It can also be seen in the video for Jessica Mauboy's single Running Back, as well as some high rating television shows, such as the Seven Network's City Homicide and Network Ten's Rush. The stadium was also visible in the background during broadcasts of Seven News Melbourne until the background camera was changed in August 2010. It was also visible in broadcasts of Nine News Melbourne for a period up until 2006 when it was replaced with a shot overlooking the city's east.

March 2010 stadium damage

The venue was damaged by a super-cell thunderstorm on the afternoon of 6 March 2010 during the 2010 Victorian storms. The external roof (not the main retractable roof) caved in, causing damage and flooding in one of the stadium's entertainment precincts. Because of the damage, the St. Kilda v Fremantle NAB Cup Semi Final was delayed due to worksafe inspections. Only around 5,000 people made it back into the arena when it was safe to return.


Main, Jim (2007). Our Game. Penguin Group. ISBN 978-0-670-07143-2. 

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