North Melbourne will boast the biggest and best inner-city training complex in Melbourne under an ambitious plan submitted to the Victorian government.
Under North's proposal, its Arden St headquarters' footprint would grow from 4.5ha to 11.2ha and would be upgraded to include:
- An indoor centre with a large synthetic oval.
- A second indoor centre with four multi-use hard courts.
- An indoor aquatic centre with a 50m pool.
- An outdoor synthetic oval with lighting.
- Sports changerooms and social rooms, which could be used for AFLW and VFL games.
- A café and other shops.
The Kangaroos' plan was submitted in response to a proposed $7 billion redevelopment of an industrial pocket of North Melbourne, which will become known as Arden.
The redevelopment will stretch over 10 years and, by 2051, is forecast to bring 34,000 workers and 15,000 residents into Arden. From 2026, the precinct will be serviced by an underground railway station, which will be one stop from the CBD, western suburbs and Melbourne University (Parkville).
North's proposal is before the Victorian Planning Authority, which last September released a draft vision and framework for Arden.
Although Essendon and Fremantle have recently set a new standard for club training facilities – and Hawthorn has advanced plans to follow their lead – North’s complex will enjoy a significant point of difference by being based close to the city, just 3km from Melbourne's CBD.
Melbourne, Collingwood and Richmond are also based near the city, but their existing facilities will be superseded, at least in size, if North's blueprint is implemented.
In a submission by Tract Consultants on behalf of the club, North contends its plan would be a win for both the club and local community.
"The club sees the development of the precinct not only as an opportunity to secure its long-term training and community base in the heart of Melbourne, but a major opportunity to engage and contribute meaningfully to a world-class community sports and recreation hub, which connects and is embraced by the local community," the submission says.
"The club considers that its facilities, particularly as benchmarked against its competitors, are key to attracting and developing talent and by extension to the future success of the club.
"North Melbourne intends to remain in its current location where it contributes substantially to the North Melbourne community and more generally to the inner north of Melbourne.
"To achieve this, the club needs to future proof its current base, including potential accommodation of a women's team and facilities suitable for VFL fixtures."
Arden will be bound by Macaulay Rd to the north, Dryburgh St to the east and the Upfield railway line to the south and west.
Under North's submission, the club's expanded grounds and most of its facilities would be open to the local community, and would serve as the new precinct's primary open space. New public amenities would also be installed around the site.
A new primary school is planned as part of the broader Arden redevelopment, with North proposing it be located at the public archives building on Macaulay Rd, which would give its pupils easy access to the Arden St grounds.
North also plans to expand its administration building and to relocate its Huddle social-inclusion program to adjacent larger premises, which will allow the club to expand its community work.
For the Kangaroos' proposal to become a reality, land and roads between the club's existing grounds and Clayton Reserve (to the north on Macaulay Rd) might need to be acquired.
Most of that land is owned by the City of Melbourne and government entities, with only 25 per cent privately owned.
North has also included potential flood planning solutions in its plan, something the government and Melbourne Water have identified as a critical consideration for the new precinct.
North's plan is yet to be costed, but the club proposes it be funded in partnership by the City of Melbourne (via revenue received from the Arden redevelopment), the State Government, AFL and Kangaroos.
The VPA intends to release a final vision and framework for Arden by the end of the year at the latest.