By James Phelps
9 July 2020 - The Daily Telegraph
IT could be back to Belmore for the Bulldogs with a 25,000-seat stadium described as a mini-Bankwest at the centre of a $250 million homecoming plan.
Hoping to become part of the NRL's suburban ground strategy that includes the state-of-the-art stadium in Parramatta, the Bulldogs confirmed their Belmore blueprint after an architect from the firm behind Wembley Stadium's $1.2 billion rebuild was spotted surveying the famous site on Wednesday.
"We certainly have started a conversation with the NRL and with architects to look at what can be done at Belmore Sports Ground," said Bulldogs CEO Andrew Hill.
"While it is very preliminary and subject to NSW's stadium policy, we absolutely want Belmore to be at the front and centre of that discussion." While South Sydney is likely to recommit to ANZ Stadium next week, Hill said the cancellation of the Sydney Olympic Park redevelopment had opened the door for a stadium strategy rethink.
"We have an opportunity to look at a long-term strategy while we still have a number of years left on our ANZ deal," Hill said. "We have a great relationship with ANZ Stadium and while we are disappointed with the recent decision we are looking at what opportunities there are for the club around stadiums.
"We want to be able to sit down with the NSW government and the NRL so we can better understand what their strategy around stadia is now. If having a redeveloped ANZ stadium is not in the plan we would like the opportunity to discuss other options." And in news that will excite every Bulldogs fan, Hill confirmed a return to Belmore was the first option that would be discussed.
"We need to understand what their strategy will be in Sydney," Hill said. "There has obviously been a significant change in strategy and we want to be part of the conversation in terms of what opportunities there are for Belmore Sports Ground." The seriousness of the plan was confirmed on Wednesday when representatives from Populous — the biggest architectural firm in the world — toured Belmore . Populous has designed some of the world's best stadium's including Wembley Stadium and Emirates Stadium in the UK and Suncorp Stadium and Marvel Stadium in Australia.
Initial reports suggest the land at Belmore — which is hemmed in by a train track on one side and houses on the other — can accommodate a 20,000-seat-plus stadium.
"Brookvale and Penrith have been mentioned," Hill said. "And there is no reason Belmore can't be. We are right on the railway line and have a long-term history of playing games and I think our fans and members deserve a new stadium at Belmore ." A club-owned plot of land in Liverpool is being considered as an alternate site. Also contracted to ANZ Stadium, the Rabbitohs are expected to recommit to Olympic Park as early as next week after members voted for a Homebush return.
"We are still going through the results," said South Sydney CEO Blake Solley. "But it is clear there is an appetite to return to ANZ."