THE AFL has bought Etihad Stadium.
The deal is a major breakthrough for tenant clubs North Melbourne, the Western Bulldogs and St Kilda, who will be freed from the restraints of cash-draining contracts with the outgoing owners.
Essendon and Carlton will also likely benefit.
After 15 months of talks, the AFL Commission signed off on the agreement last week and the final paper work was completed on Friday morning.
It's been reported the deal could be worth around $200 million. AFL.com.au has not independently confirmed this figure.
It is expected the AFL will take control of the facility early next month.
Etihad Stadium chief executive Michael Green will remain stadium boss and there will be no immediate changes to the venue's management structure.
The League intends to continue running the stadium as a multi-purpose venue hosting other sports and concerts when not in AFL mode.
"Owning Etihad Stadium enables the AFL to continue to strengthen the financial health of several of our Victorian clubs, develop an asset for our whole industry, and commit to being a serious stakeholder in the future of the Docklands precinct," AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said in a statement.
"Stadiums are a vital piece of community and public infrastructure that bring city precincts alive.
"The AFL will continue to operate Etihad Stadium as a multi-purpose entertainment venue hosting AFL matches, other sports, concerts and a broad range of entertainment options.
"Our commitment as owners of Etihad Stadium is to work with government to provide a stadium experience for our fans equal to the best in the world, as well as explore how we can help improve the stadium’s relationship to Docklands and the city."
The 53,000-seat Docklands stadium replaced Waverley Park as an AFL venue when it opened in 2000.
It has been known by several names including Colonial Stadium and Telstra Dome before adopting Etihad Stadium through a sponsorship agreement with Etihad Airways in 2012.
The AFL has been in talks with the Victorian government about renovating the stadium, and better integrating it with the Docklands precinct.
The League had been due to take hold of the stadium for $30 in 2025, as part of the original deal when the venue was built.
The complicated deal completed on Friday sees the AFL secure both management rights and freehold ownership of the stadium.
AFL has today agreed to acquire management rights & freehold of Etihad Stadium & should formally take over the stadium early November. pic.twitter.com/VW00cnn8XI— Patrick Keane (@AFL_PKeane) October 7, 2016
So what now?
When does the AFL get the keys?
The AFL is expected to formally take over the ownership and management of the stadium early next month.
What happens to current club deals?
The AFL will now be able to construct new deals for all five tenant clubs. The Western Bulldogs, North Melbourne and St Kilda had been worse off under current arrangements. Essendon and Carlton split their home games between Docklands and the MCG.
What happens to food prices?
Existing catering contracts with Delaware North could be a factor, but the League will be able to have a long-term influence over the cost of food and drinks.
What happens to ticket prices?
The AFL will take more control over the ticket price structure, and potentially have the chance to review the stadium's current arrangements with Ticketmaster.
What happens to naming rights?
Etihad Airways has naming rights to the stadium until 2019, and that contract will remain in place. There is also an option for the airline to extend that deal.
Could tenant clubs host preliminary finals at Etihad Stadium?
This could be one of the conundrums facing AFL schedulers as early as next season, particularly with the Western Bulldogs as reigning premiers.
What about the future of the Docklands precinct?
The AFL has been in talks with the Victorian government about opening up the stadium to the waterfront. This deal allows for those negotiations to ramp up.
Was the Victorian government involved?
It's unclear exactly what role, if any, state government officials played in these negotiations.
Does this mean the end of Eddie McGuire's proposal for a second stadium near the MCG?
The AFL appears determined to keep Etihad Stadium and upgrade it rather than sell the site to developers.