Nice gig: Mike Baird’s stadium tsar lives it up at Super Bowl and Premier League
A high-powered delegation from NSW saw Beyonce, Coldplay singer Chris Martin and Bruno Mars perform at the Super Bowl before jetting off to Las Vegas and London. Photo: AP
When the Baird government sorts out what kinds of stadiums it wants to build, it should have no shortage of inspiration.
At a cost of about $30,000 to the taxpayer, the bureaucrat in charge of running the state’s stadium strategy recently joined top brass from the SCG Trust and the Trust’s architects on a multi-city US and UK stadium tour.
But the trip, which took in performances by Beyonce and Coldplay, the Super Bowl, a visit to Las Vegas and an English Premier League game, has angered the Labor opposition, which opposes the Baird government’s stated plan to spend the bulk of $1.6 billion of stadium funding in the eastern suburbs.
Paul Doorn, the executive director of the government’s Sports Infrastructure Group, spent about two weeks on the February trip along with the chief executive of the SCG Trust, Jamie Barkley.
Five employees of architecture and consulting firms that have been working with the SCG Trust on its plans to build another football stadium at Moore Park also attended.
According to an itinerary obtained using freedom of information laws, the tour started in San Francisco, where Mr Doorn and others saw Coldplay, Bruno Mars and Beyonce rehearse at the state-of the-art Levi’s Stadium two days before the Super Bowl.
They then attended the Super Bowl, before flying to Vegas (Las Vegas Arena). After overnight stops at Kansas (Arrowhead Stadium and Kauffman Stadium) and Miami (Marlins Stadium and Dolphins Stadium), they travelled to London where they watched Arsenal v Leicester (Emirates Stadium) and had a look around Lord’s.
The details about the trip coincides with an increasingly contentious debate over where the state government should spend $1.6 billion it has slated for stadiums. Sports Minister Stuart Ayres and the SCG Trust want to build a replacement rectangular stadium for Allianz, which could end up taking the bulk of the money.
But NRL clubs would need to be convinced to play there, when only the Roosters are now based there and Souths, Canterbury and the Wests Tigers see their demographic future closer to the alternative ANZ Stadium at Sydney Olympic Park.
Labor says any new stadium funding should be spent at ANZ before Allianz, helping to turn ANZ into a proper rectangular sporting field. Labor’s spokeswoman on sport, Lynda Voltz, said questions needed to be asked about the SCG Trust initiated the study tour to look at ways to spend the government’s investment.
“Given that ANZ Stadium at Sydney Olympic Park is a cornerstone of Sydney’s events market, particularly when competing for events against other states, why were they excluded from this trip?” Ms Voltz said.
“It appears the NSW government has a deliberate strategy to ensure that facilities only stay in the eastern suburbs rather than acknowledge the importance of ANZ Stadium in the west.”
A spokesman for My Ayres did not comment. A spokesman for the SCG Trust said Mr Barkley’s trip was paid for by the Trust and not taxpayers, that Mr Barkley paid for his own ticket to the Super Bowl, and that the cost of Mr Barkley’s trip were similar to Mr Doorn’s.
“The tour enabled inspection of what is seen to be the world’s most modern sporting venue, Levi’s Stadium, and a number of other state-of-the-art facilities,” the spokesman said.
SCG Trust chairman Tony Shepherd also attended the Super Bowl and has previously told Fairfax Media he paid his own way. Mr Doorn’s ticket to the Super Bowl was provided by GWS Giants vice-chairman Joseph Carrozzi.
Mr Carozzi said he attended the Super Bowl independently and had bought a spare ticket for a colleague. When that colleague obtained another ticket through a client, Mr Carozzi offered the ticket to Mr Doorn.
Asked about Mr Doorn’s travel, a spokesperson for the NSW Office of Sport said: “We have nothing further to add to what is already provided in the GIPA [information request].”
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