Optus Stadium tours, Perth: Inside Australia's new sporting mecca

It's a bright, warm day in Perth and I'm standing outside the glistening facade of the city's newest landmark – the 60,000-capacity Optus Stadium.

From a distance, the oval structure looks like it's covered in dark wooden boards, which seems extraordinary for a building of this size. Now that I'm closer, I realise it's rust-coloured metal – a popular colour in the city's new projects, reflecting, as it does, the landscape and earth, a source of much of the state's history and wealth.

The $1.6 billion-stadium, built over four years, claims to be the most state-of-the-art, fan-friendly venue in the country. Opened in January, it can't yet lay claim to any of the great sporting history that the Melbourne Cricket Ground or even the much smaller, neighbouring Western Australian Cricket Association Ground (WACA), but it's already beginning to rack up significant events.

Its first, a one-day international between Australia and England, was a sellout. More recently, international pop sensation Ed Sheeran filled the stadium for two shows, with large numbers of fans reportedly flying in from Asia and beyond to catch the star in concert.

While cricket and concerts will form a major part of the stadium's use, its real heart will be AFL. I'm part of a public tour of the stadium that takes us deep into the underbelly of the sports venue, inside the yet-to-be-hallowed halls where the two resident AFL teams, the West Coast Eagles and the Fremantle Dockers, will warm up, cool down and plan their strategies on game days.

There are no events on today, so we're able to access areas that are rarely seen by the average punter. We make our way through the locker rooms of Fremantle, into their bathing room (where players can jump straight into an ice bath, or a jacuzzi, after the game) and the small auditorium where the coach will address the team and play back footage of their performances and their opponents on a large screen.

With more than 100 years of history behind Australia's stadiums, the developers took the opportunity to learn from some of the past problems of its predecessors. Seats are larger (at 50 centimetres wide, they're about the size of a premium economy seat on a plane) and there is more open space in concourse. There are also 1000 TV screens throughout the venue showing the event, meaning you don't need to miss a second of the action when you go to get a drink or use the bathroom (there's even one in the baby change room). That's in addition to the two giant scoreboard screens, the largest in the southern hemisphere, covering a whopping 340 square metres each.

Recognising that the days of sport crowds being dominated by men are long gone, there are more women's toilets than men's (781 women's, 748 men's). This will help alleviate queues for the women's facilities, a problem that was notorious at Subiaco Oval (I'm told).

Although pitched as being Australia's most fan-friendly stadium, clearly much thought has been given to making the venue attractive to corporate and VIP guests. There are 200 premium seats that feature electric recline and look and feel more like airline business class seats than something you'd find in an arena.

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In "The Locker Room", a bar and entertainment space on the ground level, VIPs can enjoy hospitality while watching the teams warm up behind a glass wall. When it's time for the game to start, the players will actually run out to the ground through this space. This is the only space of its kind in the country and only the second in the world, we're told (the other belongs to the Dallas Cowboys' AT&T Stadium).

Perhaps the most desired spot at the stadium though will be the hospitality suite behind the coaches boxes, where guests can watch the coaches in action during games. The audio from the box is even piped into the room (if the coach allows it). Understandably, no mobile phones are allowed in this suite, preventing punters from sharing what they see and hear online.

Our final stop on the tour is the Sky View Lounge, a bar and event space on the top level, where the highlight is, ironically, not associated with the playing field. The rear of this space features a large outdoor terrace, looking out across the Swan River to a beautiful view of the city.

It's a fine way to finish a tour of Australia's newest major sporting venue. Now all that's needed is to start making history.

TRIP NOTES

MORE

traveller.com.au/perth

westernaustralia.com/perth

experienceperth.com

STAY

Aloft Perth, opened in mid-2017, is on the edge of the Swan River in Rivervale, just a short distance from the stadium. See aloftperth.com

TOUR

There are public tours of Optus Stadium on non-event days at 10am, 11am, 1pm, and 3pm (excluding public holidays). Tours cost $25 for adults and take about 90 minutes. See optusstadium.com.au

The first AFL premiership season game at the stadium will take place on March 25, with West Coast taking on the Sydney Swans.

Craig Platt travelled as a guest of Tourism Western Australia.

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