Eureka Stadium
Mars Stadium
Mars Stadium Ballarat (Winter 2022).png
Mars (Eureka) Stadium Aerial 2022
Former namesNorthern Oval #1, AUSTAR Arena and Eureka Stadium
LocationMidland Highway, Wendouree, Victoria, Australia
Public transitBus CDC Route 30 and CDC Route 12
OwnerCity of Ballarat
OperatorCity of Ballarat
Capacity11,000 (6,000 seated)[1]
Field size170.8 m × 139.0 m (560.4 ft × 456.0 ft)
Field shapeOval
SurfaceGrass
ScoreboardVideo-electronic (50 m2 [540 sq ft])
Construction
Broke ground1990
Built1990
Renovated2016–17; 2020-21
Expanded2017
Construction cost$21.976 million (AUD) (Stage 1) and $6.35 million (AUD) (Stage 2)
ArchitectPeddle Thorp (Melbourne)
Main contractorsAW Nicholson Constructions and Atelier Projects
Tenants
North Ballarat Football Club (VFL/BFL) (1990–)
GWV Rebels (NAB League) (1993–)
North Ballarat Cricket Club (BCA) (1993–)
Western Bulldogs (AFL) (2017–)
Western United FC (A-League) (2019–)

Eureka Stadium, known commercially as Mars Stadium, is an oval shaped sports stadium located in the Eureka Sports Precinct of Wendouree, 2.9 km (1.8 mi) north of the CBD of the city of Ballarat, Victoria, Australia.

History

The first permanent oval used by the North Ballarat Football Club was established in 1963 in the centre of the Ballarat Showgrounds show-ring and Harness Racing track that was used by the Ballarat Trotting Club as its main venue between 1952 and 1966. In 1990 a new large all-weather oval (dimensions 170 by 140 metres (560 ft × 460 ft)) replaced the old harness racing track. The new oval was complemented by a new sports pavilion (The North Ballarat Sports Club) which was constructed on private land to the oval's northern flank.

Between 1990 and 2015 the oval was used for many sporting and entertainment purposes although mainly as an Australian rules football and cricket venue. It annually hosted the Ballarat Gift (Athletics Carnival) and the Ballarat Agricultural and Pastoral Society's show-ring events during their annual Show. During this time the North Ballarat Sports Club underwent a number of expansions and upgrades.

The stadium oval in its original configuration during the annual Ballarat Show, November 2011
The stadium oval in its original configuration during the annual Ballarat Show, November 2011

Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s various proposals to play AFL football at the ground had been discussed by the Ballarat football community, media, and business groups in isolation. However, in 2008 a proposal to develop the stadium for use by AFL team North Melbourne and the North Ballarat VFL team was put forward to the Victorian State Government by the Ballarat Council backed by business and civic groups under a campaign titled "Think Big Ballarat". The proposal received support from the Labor Government during the 2010 State Election, however when not returned to office the new incoming LNP Government gave only conditional support to the proposal finally dropping it in 2011. The Ballarat Council, media, sports groups, tourism and business groups continued lobbying until the 2014 State election when the then State Opposition announced that they would fund the development as an AFL Tier 2 stadium with the first AFL seasonal game to be played from 2017 if elected. Once elected, the new government immediately committed funding in the 2015 State Budget thus green lighting the first stage development of the stadium.

In order to accommodate grandstands and other facilities the oval was completely rebuilt being oriented to a NE-SW axis in preparation for the first stage of construction. The newly rebuilt oval featured state of the art irrigation and drainage systems, a 4000 capacity spectator berm on its South-Eastern flank, and four 37 metres (121 ft) light towers rigged to illuminate the playing arena to 300 lux (sufficient for non-televised Tier 2 Australian Football night competition).

In June 2017 naming rights for the venue were granted to Mars Confectionery Australia. From April 2017 to June 2018 the City of Ballarat and North Ballarat Sports Club negotiated for Council to purchase the freehold title to ensure that the newly built stadium and existing sports club would be co-developed and future managed as a singular entity.

The facility today remains the home of the North Ballarat Sports Club including the Greater Western Victoria Rebels of the NAB League and the North Ballarat City FC of the Ballarat Football League. It is also used as a venue for Central Highlands Football League and Ballarat Football League for both seasonal games and finals in addition to hosting two AFL seasonal games per-year since 2017.

Mars Stadium Social Club and Eureka Stand
Mars Stadium Social Club and Eureka Stand

Sports played at Eureka Stadium

Australian rules football

In 2006 professional football club North Melbourne established a partnership with the North Ballarat Football Club to enable its reserve-grade players to play alongside the North Ballarat players in the Victorian Football League. North Melbourne also played pre-season games in the Australian Football League (AFL) at the ground during this time. In 2014 the Victorian Government and AFL approved the request of fellow AFL club the Western Bulldogs at least two AFL premiership matches at the ground from 2017, though without an affiliation with North Ballarat as North Melbourne had been. At that point North Melbourne ceased ceased its association with Ballarat and instead committed to play a percentage of their AFL premiership matches in Hobart, Tasmania.

In August 2017, the Bulldogs hosted the first AFL match for premiership points at the venue against Port Adelaide with the latter winning the match by 17 points. The Bulldogs have also played pre-season and regular season AFL men's and AFL Women's games at the ground. In November 2021 the Western Bulldogs and the Ballarat Council announced that the club would continue playing two AFL and one AFLW home games per season, to be reviewed in 2024.[2]

In July 2021 the stadium hosted the Round 17 AFL match between the GWS Giants and the Gold Coast Suns that was originally scheduled to be held in Sydney when a COVID-19 outbreak in New South Wales necessitated a last-minute change of venue.[3]

Association football

Since 2019 the stadium has hosted association football (soccer) with A-League club Western United FC playing some of its Victorian home games in Ballarat. The first game was played against Wellington Phoenix on 28 December 2019[4] with the Phoenix winning the match 3–1 in front of 5,084 fans. Since 2019 the club has continued to utilise the venue for some home season games and has further committed to do so until construction of a new dedicated home soccer stadium in Tarneit in Western Melbourne is completed. In October 2020 A-League Players voted the stadium as having equal to or the best surface of all A-League venues.[5]

Cricket

From 1990 to 2015 the main oval hosted Ballarat Cricket Association matches. The individual highest batting score on the ground (226 runs) being accredited to Mr Tom MacDonald (of the Wendouree Cricket Club) on the 18th February 2006 against the North Ballarat Cricket Club. The main oval has not been used for cricket since redevelopment in 2016, however provision was made for drop in wickets to be installed if the venue hosts future large scale cricket events. The Ballarat North Cricket Club currently play home matches at the Frank Bourke Oval (Also referred to as the Number 2 Oval) adjacent to the stadium, while First Class cricket matches in Ballarat are mostly hosted at the city's historic Eastern Oval which has recently undergone a series of Cricket Australia endorsed upgrades.

Rugby union and rugby league

The stadium successfully hosted Melbourne Rebels Super Rugby AU pre-seasonal and seasonal games against Queensland Reds and the Durban Sharks during 2019 and 2020 respectively, and Melbourne Storm and Newcastle Knights of the Australian National Rugby League in February 2022 in a pre-season trial game before 5,127 fans.

Redevelopments in the 2010's

In 2015 the Ballarat Council prepared a strategic development document titled the "Ballarat Major Events Precinct Master Plan" that detailed a long-term plan for a three-stage development of the Eureka Sports Precinct which included Eureka Stadium, the Ballarat Showgrounds, neighbouring sports ovals, netball courts and pavilions as well as the construction of the Ballarat Sports Events Centre.[6]

The Eastern Stand
The Eastern Stand

In June 2015 the Victorian government committed $38.5 million to upgrade the wider Eureka Sports Precinct, with approximately half of the funding allocated to Stage-One development of the Eureka Stadium.[7]

The Eastern Stand and main viewing berm
The Eastern Stand and main viewing berm

Planning for construction of the first stage was significantly fast-tracked, occurring whilst the reconstruction of the oval was underway during 2015. Initial design concepts for the grandstands were released for public feedback in late 2015 resulting in significant revisions before the final designs were confirmed in May 2016. Soon after tenders for construction were announced, the building works for new grandstand and terraced seating for 5000, player races, a video scoreboard, new coaches boxes and media broadcast suites had commenced. Those construction works being completed by July 2017.

In May 2018 the Victorian State Government commissioned a $500,000 Ballarat Council study to identify works considered necessary to immediately address the facility's known shortcomings as well as long-term development options. The recommendations were delivered to the State Government and informed the Victorian State Government's "Home Ground Advantage - Victoria's Major Stadia Strategy" document.[8]

From September 2020 to April 2022 a $6.6 million works program provided upgraded player and umpire change-rooms as uni-sex facilities, two new permanent covered entrances and ticketing facilities, new food and beverage outlets, permanent public conveniences at the southern boundary of the stadium, and partial concreting of the south-east viewing berm. These works were completed under budget ($6.35 million) in March 2022.

Since 2018 various sports users and television sports commentators have publicly criticised the stadium's 2016 lighting upgrade noting its ineffectiveness during twilight and inclement weather conditions. In January 2022 the Ballarat Council lobbyied for replacement of the stadium's lighting with modern TV broadcast standard towers under a $3.5 million request to political parties ahead of 2022 Federal and State elections.[9]

2026 Commonwealth Games

On 12 April 2022, Premier of Victoria announced that the stadium will be expanded and upgraded to host the athletics events at the 2026 Commonwealth Games.[10] The announcement left unaddressed specific details of funding and what upgrades, though the Ballarat Council indicated their preference for expanded grandstand seating as well as other modifications that would permanently expand the ground to a capacity of at least 20,000 seats.

The Ballarat Council begun the process of negotiation for purchasing approximately 11 hectares of private land adjacent to the stadium. This additional land would initially be used to host corporate and entertainment zones as well as a permanent athletics training field during the games and later to provide space for development of other sports fields and expansion of other nearby stadia after the games. The Council in consultation with other Eureka Sports Precinct stakeholders and users revised the 2015 Master Plan for the precinct which assists the Commonwealth Games planners and organisers in the development of facilities and amenities during the Games and that will provide a positive legacy after.

In October 2022 the government announced it would spend $150 million to upgrade the stadium for the games. The stadium will be expanded to hold an additional 5,000 permanent seats, while 18,000 further temporary seats will be provided, for a total temporary capacity for the games of approximately 35,000. A new athletics track will be built at the site of the precinct and a competition standard track will be installed on the existing playing field.[11][12]

Attendance records

Top 5 Attendance Records

No. Date Teams Sport Competition Crowd
1 23 April 2022 Western Bulldogs v. Adelaide Australian Rules Football AFL 10,412
2 19 August 2017 Western Bulldogs v. Port Adelaide Australian Rules Football AFL 10,087
3 25 August 2019 Adelaide Crows v. Western Bulldogs Australian Rules Football AFL 9,564
4 11 May 2019 Brisbane Lions v. Western Bulldogs Australian Rules Football AFL 9,039
5 11 March 2012 North Melbourne v. Western Bulldogs Australian Rules Football NAB Cup 8,000

References

  1. ^ "Eureka Stadium". Austadiums. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
  2. ^ "Western Bulldogs start talks with City of Ballarat, state government over new Ballarat deal". Ballarat Courier. 7 April 2021.
  3. ^ Testa, Christopher (6 July 2021). "Ballarat community welcomes GWS Giants and Gold Coast Suns AFL clash". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 6 July 2021.
  4. ^ "A-League matches confirmed for Ballarat for season 2019/20". Ballarat Courier. 8 August 2019.
  5. ^ "A-League players give Ballarat venue tick of approval". Ballarat Courier. 29 October 2020.
  6. ^ "Ballarat Major Events Precinct Master Plan" (PDF). City of Ballarat. June 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 March 2016.
  7. ^ "Eureka Stadium funding confirmed". Western Bulldogs. 17 June 2015.
  8. ^ "Home Ground Advantage - Victoria's Major Stadia Strategy". Victoria State Government. 13 April 2018. Retrieved 16 July 2021.
  9. ^ "Priority Projects of Advocacy" (PDF). Ballarat City Council. 15 January 2022. Retrieved 15 January 2022.
  10. ^ Mackay, Duncan (22 April 2022). "Victoria officially confirmed as host of 2026 Commonwealth Games as new regional model unveiled". Inside the Games. Retrieved 13 April 2022.
  11. ^ "$150m upgrade for Mars Stadium ahead of 2026 Commonwealth Games". Austadiums. 12 October 2022.
  12. ^ "Eureka! Stadium Upgrade Ahead Of Victoria 2026". premier.vic.gov.au. 12 October 2022.

Coordinates: 37°32′22.3″S 143°50′52.9″E / 37.539528°S 143.848028°E / -37.539528; 143.848028