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AFL considers boutique stadium

Carlton's Heath Scotland trains in front of the stands at Visy Park - ${keywords}
Carlton's Heath Scotland trains in front of the stands at Visy Park
THE AFL is seriously looking at redeveloping Carlton's Visy Park or Richmond's Punt Road Oval into a boutique 20,000-seat venue, according to League boss Andrew Demetriou.

"We've done a feasibility study on Visy (Park)," Demetriou said on Monday. "Visy can work.

"But we've got a couple of other options. I think Punt Road's got some legs."

With clubs like North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs struggling to make money from low-drawing games at Etihad Stadium, the push for the AFL to buy the ground earlier than scheduled or develop a boutique venue has intensified.

The current agreement states that the League will be handed Etihad Stadium for the price of $1 in 2025.

If the AFL and Etihad Stadium's owners can't agree on a price, a boutique stadium could work because only 40 matches need to be played at Docklands from 2015, down from 46 this season.

"We have got a number of games that would be attractive in an 18,000- to 20,000-seat venue," Demetriou added.

"If you've got a full house in a ground you can create a great atmosphere, so I don't think we should close our minds to a boutique stadium."

The possibility of a new stadium being built at the E-Gate development site in Melbourne's inner-west was floated 2009, but that has gone off the AFL's radar.

"It's not something we've thought about," Demetriou said.

The home and away season kicked off over the weekend with two bumper crowds, although the split opening round has attracted some criticism.

But the AFL is likely to continue starting its season a week earlier than was traditionally the case, even if some of its most famous venues are unavailable.

"In the ideal world … it would've been preferable to kick the season off at the MCG, as we've done traditionally, but the ground wasn't available," he said.

"As it turned out the ground was available (because Victoria missed the Sheffield Shield final).

"But … given that our competition (the NRL) starts in New South Wales and Queensland two to three weeks earlier than we do, getting our season started earlier is something we need to consider.

"But we're not fixed yet on what the right formula is.

"We were thrilled with the results of the first two games. We had 1.2 million people watch the game on Friday night on television, it was a sell-out crowd."

The AFL's attempt to boost the number of club members from around 700,000 last season to one million by 2016 has also received a boost.

Origin Energy has pledged to help fund memberships for their customers as part of a new corporate deal with the League.
The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs