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. 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. Under the terms of the agreement governing construction and operation of the venue, in 2025 the AFL were to win ownership of the stadium for a $30 fee.
Docklands Stadium, like Waverley Park, was built primarily for Australian rules football, unlike most grounds of a similar size in Australia which were originally designed for cricket.
The first match to be played at the ground was between Essendon and Port Adelaide, before a crowd of 43,012, in Round 1 of the 2000 AFL season. Essendon won the match by 94 points.
The stadium was the first stadium in Australia to have movable seating. 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).
Docklands Stadium first featured rugby league football when it was used as the Melbourne Storm's home ground for one season in 2001. The Storm continued to play home games at the ground sporadically in the following years. Docklands was also the venue for the third and deciding game of the 2006 State of Origin series and Australia's home game against New Zealand in the 2006 Tri-nations series. During the 2008 Rugby League World Cup Australia played England at the stadium and the opening games of the 2009 and 2012 State of Origin series were also played here, the latter attracting 56,021, a new record for rugby league at the stadium.
In 2015 LED electronic advertising was added around the perimeter of the ground on level 1 and 2.
On 24 October 2015 the stadium hosted Motorcycle speedway when it played host to the 2015 Speedway Grand Prix of Australia (on a 346 metres (378 yards) long temporary track) which was the twelfth and final round of the 2015 Speedway Grand Prix World Championship season. It was the first time Australia had hosted a round of the SGP event since the final round of the 2002 season in Sydney. With stadium capacity capped at 42,000 for the event, 26,609 fans saw 45 year old American rider Greg Hancock take out his 20th SGP Final (coincidentally, Hancock had also won the 2002 event). Danish rider Niels-Kristian Iversen finished second with Poland's Maciej Janowski finishing third. Reigning Australian Champion Jason Doyle qualified for the final but was outed in a crash in the first turn in which he suffered neck and chest injuries. A fully conscious Doyle was then transported to the Royal Melbourne Hospital for observation.
In March 2016, it was announced that Collingwood president Eddie McGuire had taken a proposal to the state government for the stadium to be sold for redevelopment when the AFL gain ownership of the stadium in 2025, with a new similar size stadium built within the Melbourne Sports and Entertainment Precinct. The plan was rejected by the AFL. Prior to the start of the 2016 AFL season the seats in the Medallion Club were replaced. The old seats in the Medallion Club section were relocated to other areas in the ground.
On 7 October 2016, the AFL Commission announced that the league had acquired exclusive ownership of the stadium. The league elected to buy out the Etihad Stadium owners for a figure believed to be approximately $200 million, rather than wait until 2025 when the league would automatically acquire ownership of the venue for $30.
On 16 August 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 following table summarises the ODI centuries scored at Docklands.
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.
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 has been used for State of Origin series matches when they are played in Melbourne. This ground hosted 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 hosted 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 only National Soccer League game to be held at this stadium.
WWE hosted a non-televised live event at the stadium on 10 August 2002 as part of the Global Warning Tour. The event attracted 56,734 fans.
In May 2013, the stadium hosted a match between Queanbeyan Football Club and Werribee Football Club as part of the Foxtel Cup.
On 14 November 2015, UFC 193 was held at Etihad Stadium. This was the first UFC event to be held in Melbourne. The event attracted a UFC record attendance of 56,214 fans, beating the previous the record for the highest attendance at a UFC event when 55,724 attended UFC 129 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
The Docklands Stadium is officially home ground to five AFL teams. Carlton, Essendon, North Melbourne, St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs use the stadium as their primary home ground, although all the Victorian-based teams have played home games at the ground. The AFL highest home and away attendance recorded at the Docklands Stadium was set on 5 July 2009 when 54,444 people watched St Kilda play Geelong in Round 14.
Melbourne Victory also play home 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. A record crowd of 39,730 attended the game. After 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 except 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, 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 would play blockbuster and finals games at Docklands, with all other games being played at the new stadium. The Victory still play 5 home games at the venue as well as all home finals matches.
In the 2001 NRL season the stadium was the home ground for the Melbourne Storm. It also hosted one home game in 2008 and three home games in 2010. In 2007 and 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.
The Big Bash League side Melbourne Renegades also plays its home games at the Docklands Stadium.
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 and Carlton who also at the time were sponsored by Optus). On March 1, 2009, when the naming rights transferred to Etihad Airways, the venue officially became known as Etihad Stadium and in August 2012 the partnership was extended for five more years until 2019. Etihad Airways are paying an estimated $5–$8 million a year for naming rights at the Docklands stadium. Controversy surrounded 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.Retractable roof 38 metres (125 ft) above the playing surface, opens east-west, and takes eight minutes to fully open or close.
Movable seating (4 sections of the lower tier can move 18 metres forward to give a rectangular configuration)
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 changes as appropriate for circumstances: for Essendon home matches, the Coventry End is renamed the Lloyd End and the Lockett End is renamed the Fletcher End, for Western Bulldogs home matches, the Lockett End is renamed the Footscray 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.
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. Prior to assuming ownership of the ground in 2016, the AFL regarded the stadium owner as a hostile landlord, engaging in numerous lawsuits against the-then owners and threatening to build a rival stadium as close as a kilometre away in the short-term.
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.
In 2007, studies were conducted by the University of Melbourne to investigate concerns that hard surfaces, such as the surface at the Docklands Stadium increase the likelihood of player injury, in particular anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries (knee).
There has been controversy during the 2015 AFL season about the synthetic turf installed around the perimeter of the playing surface, particularly around the AFL interchange gates as well as where the goals are located. This was highlighted after a Brisbane Lions player suffered a season ending ACL injury and one coach labeling the surface 'dangerous' after a game at the venue.Largest attendance
Keep Seeking First God's Kingdom - 2014 International Convention of Jehovah's Witnesses
19 October 2014
70,059 people "Etihad Stadium Records".
Largest entertainment event attendance
Robbie Williams Close Encounters Tour
18 December 2006
64,619 people "Etihad Stadium Records".
Largest series of concerts
11, 13 & 15 February 2010
Largest rugby union attendance
2013 British and Irish Lions tour to Australia, 29 June 2013
Australia vs British and Irish Lions
Largest One Day International cricket attendance
Commonwealth Bank Series
Largest A-League attendance
18 February 2007
Melbourne Victory vs Adelaide United
Largest Association Football attendance
2014 FIFA World Cup qualification (AFC)
1 April 2013
Australia vs Japan
Largest rugby league attendance
State of Origin Game I, 23 May 2012
Queensland vs New South Wales
Largest AFL attendance
Round 14, 5 July 2009
St Kilda vs Geelong
Largest NRL attendance
Preliminary final, 23 September 2007
Melbourne Storm vs Parramatta
Largest International Rules attendance
2nd test, 28 October 2005
Australia vs Ireland
Largest Big Bash League attendance
Round 5, 7 January 2017
Melbourne Renegades vs Melbourne Stars
Largest motorsport attendance
Speedway Grand Prix, Round 12, 24 October 2015*
Speedway Grand Prix of Australia
* Stadium capacity capped at 42,000 for the Speedway Grand PrixMost games played: Robert Murphy (Western Bulldogs), Nick Riewoldt (St Kilda), 162*
Most goals kicked: Nick Riewoldt (St Kilda), 409*
Most goals kicked in a match: Mark LeCras (West Coast), 12.2 (74), 17 July 2010 (West Coast 20.12 (132) defeated Essendon 14.16 (100))
Most disposals in a match: Tom Rockliff (Brisbane Lions), 48 vs. Carlton, 4 June 2016 (Carlton 16.6 (102) defeated Brisbane Lions 9.10 (64))
First AFL goal kicked: Michael Long (Essendon), 9 March 2000 (Essendon 24.12 (156) defeated Port Adelaide 8.14 (62))
Highest winning percentage: Geelong at 66.86% from 57 wins, 28 losses and one draw
Lowest winning percentage: Gold Coast at 18.18% from 2 wins, 9 losses
Most wins: St Kilda with 112 wins, 5 draws and 86 losses at 56.40%
Highest score: Geelong 35.12 (222) defeated Richmond 9.11 (65), 6 May 2007
Lowest score: Adelaide 3.6 (24) defeated by St Kilda 19.13 (127), 22 July 2011
Highest margin: Geelong (vs Richmond), 157 points, 6 May 2007
Highest score in a quarter: Essendon 15.4 (94) vs. Gold Coast 0.1 (1), 1 May 2011
Last updated 10 May 2016.
The Docklands Stadium hosted two Australia internationals. The stadium was in rectangular mode for the 2006 Tri-Nations game.
The venue appeared in the 2007 film Ghost Rider. Its name, wherever visible, was 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 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 and Nine News Melbourne for periods up until 2013 and 2006 respectively when both bulletins took shots overlooking the city's east.
The venue was damaged by a 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 5000 people made it back into the arena when it was safe to return.