By Madelyn Eads-Dorsey, Project Management and Delivery at City of Stonnington

When was the last time you celebrated in a public space?

Was it watching fireworks while ringing in the New Year, gathering for a national holiday or cheering on your favourite sporting team?

One of my most memorable moments, shared with 100,000 of my nearest and dearest, was when my team, the West Coast Eagles, won the AFL Grand Final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 2018.

Sport brings people together to share experiences, with sporting venues often featuring in team mythologies – games are won and lost, and history is made. Large public areas and stadiums must endure and meet society’s changing needs, so their planning and design has to consider existing stakeholders and yet undefined future needs.

Complex governance structures exist to ensure we manage redevelopments effectively. To be successful, stakeholders need to be actively engaged. From the Prime Minister to the youngest athletes and fans, everyone has a sense of ownership over these places.

With a capacity of 100,000, and home to the highest profile sporting events each year, the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground is ingrained in the hearts and minds of nearly every Australian sports fan.

Last year AECOM delivered a precinct framework for the Melbourne Cricket Club, which encompasses the MCG and surrounding area of Yarra Park. This work is the initial step in a mammoth 20-year long redevelopment phase and the first task was engaging with a wide range of stakeholders. The objective was to understand everyone’s expectations and take into account any concerns about future developments. This framework will help inform how decisions are made about where investment is directed over the coming decades. As the project develops, this type of engagement will need to broaden and deepen to ensure the framework remains relevant and aligned with expectations.

Hosting the world’s biggest sporting event, the Olympics, has long been the ultimate honour for a nation and rightly a cause for celebration. Cities vie for the honour, seeking international attention and investment, while hoping to create a legacy. Nowadays, Olympics are judged on these legacy plans just as much as their stunning opening ceremonies. In fact, AECOM’s masterplan helped London to win the 2012 bid. The masterplan outlined exactly how the Olympic Village in a previously underdeveloped corner of East London would be transformed into a vibrant and equitable community with an abundance of public space.

Both Sydney and Melbourne have hosted the Olympics, and their Olympic Parks continue to bring people together for celebrations. Both cities have capitalised on these public spaces by adapting them over time to suit the specific needs and interests of modern urbanites.

With uncertainty over the future of large spectator sports, it will be interesting to see how these facilities adapt to meet our communities’ evolving needs. History proves that they can adapt. Look at the prevalence of CCTV – when designing new security controls, designers must consult with the ultimate users to identify security solutions that balance safety with experience in order to continue to draw a crowd. It’s a difficult balance to achieve, especially as technologies evolve and the crowd experience can be enjoyed from the comfort of our own homes.

Emerging technologies focused on improving safety, security and the fan experience will be the biggest disruptors to stadium infrastructure in the next ten years. Stadiums all over the world are improving their digital connectivity to take advantage of new applications that let people know when queues are short, where their friends are and what exit to take. These keep events running smoothly and make the experience more enjoyable.

For the moment, the coronavirus has brought large-scale celebrations to a halt. We are becoming accustomed to checking-in to venues on our phones and agreeing to conditions of entry in order to enjoy what we once took for granted. But maybe the pandemic will also awaken a deeper sense of community? Will it change the frequency and format of events? Imagine block parties making a comeback, or smaller suburban stadiums hosting more events because people want to avoid crowded public transport. Drive-in concerts are popping up everywhere!

It will be fascinating to see how Tokyo adapts the Olympic celebrations next year – no doubt there will be many lessons for all of us.

Coming together to celebrate milestones or victories is human nature and helps create shared memories that connect and define a city. Some are rites of passage like New Year’s Eve fireworks on Sydney Harbour or a Boxing Day Test match at the MCG. While the way we celebrate may change, humans will always find a reason to gather to share experiences and emotions in great public spaces.

Madelyn Eads-Dorsey is a Project Manager at the City of Stonnington and is based in Melbourne.

Back to the PSIC landing page.

Banner Image –New Years Eve celebrations in Yarra Park, Melbourne, Victoria.