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Official Review by Lloyd Rothwell, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Spotless Stadium at Sydney Olympic Park was built to serve as the main baseball stadium for the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympics, as well as the new Sydney Showground, home of the Royal Agricultural Society. This boutique stadium currently has a capacity of 25,000.
A number of teams and sports have utilised Spotless Stadium over the years. The Canterbury Bulldogs of the National Rugby League (NRL) called the Showground home during the 2001 season, before moving across the boulevard to ANZ Stadium. The main tenant at Spotless Stadium since their inception in 2012 has been the Greater Western Sydney Giants (GWS) of the AFL. The Sydney Thunder of the Big Bash Cricket League (BBL) have also recently made the move from ANZ Stadium to Spotless Stadium.
The Western Sydney Wanderers (WSW) were born rather hurriedly, just in time to replace Gold Coast United, who had their license revoked in 2012. The sprawling Western Sydney region is a hotspot of football (soccer) participation, and had long desired their own team, never really having embraced the eastern suburbs elitist Sydney FC. WSW quickly gained a large and passionate fan base from across the region – one of the fastest growing in Australia. Success came equally quickly, with a premiership and AFC victory at their first attempt.
The Wanderers are now also based at Sydney Olympic Park (following the demolition of Pirtek Stadium at Parramatta) while they wait for the new Western Sydney Stadium, which will open in time for the 2019 rugby league season. Until then, WSW will play the majority of their games at Spotless Stadium, with a few marquee games at ANZ Stadium.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Here at Stadium Journey we've long considered the food at Spotless Stadium as the benchmark for other sporting venues in Sydney, if not across Australia. The options here are plentiful and certainly of better quality than usual. As with all venues the prices are dear, but the difference here is that it's much easier to justify.
Take your pick of outlets including Mick's Bake House (pies), Wally's Hot Dogs (hot dogs), Jimmy's Catch (fish and chips), Kebabish (kebabs), Bell's Kitchen (burgers), Wok 'n' Bowl (Asian), and Subway. Expect to spend somewhere around $15+ per person for a decent meal and a drink. The queues peak at half time, and remain until between 10 and 15 minutes into the second half. The outlets on the southern and eastern sides are the busiest.
The offerings at the bar are fairly standard; tap beer includes Great Northern ($7.50) and Cascade Premium Light ($6.50). Red, white, and sparkling wine are $7.50, while mixed drinks (Beam and Cola, CC and Dry, and Vodka) are $9. Soft drinks are priced at $4.70.
The pies at Spotless Stadium are among the best you'll experience at a sports stadium - there's no soggy lukewarm pre-packaged pies here. Grab one on the way to your seat as a starter, and then choose a main depending on what you feel like on the day. If you've got the kids with you, then they'll want dessert, too.
The question of where the Wanderers would play while the new stadium was being built was a complex and contentious one. In the end, the club decided to stay close to their home at Parramatta by moving to Olympic Park. That is fine, except Spotless Stadium is an oval rather than a rectangular playing surface. There's little doubt this fact detracts from the experience, and many WSW fans are not happy with the decision for this reason. Crowds also seem to be down from the 18,000 average the Wanderers were getting at Parramatta. We're a big fan of the boutique Spotless Stadium for AFL and cricket, but a football ground it is not. They've tried to make it feel like home, but it's just not the same.
See the video below to catch the Wanderers in action:
The Sydney Olympic Park precinct is a modern area consisting of major sporting and recreation venues, hotels, restaurants, and bars. While it is true that the area largely depends on major events to create buzz, there is generally enough around to give you decent pre or post game options regardless of your preferences. It's also worth checking the schedules of other summer sports based at Olympic Park to consider doubleheader opportunities or a sporting weekend at Homebush; the length of the A-League season means you may also have the chance to see the Sydney Thunder (BBL) or the Sydney Kings (NBL) in the heart of summer, or rugby league teams Canterbury, Wests Tigers, St George Illawarra, or South Sydney into the cooler months towards the end of the season.
More generally, Sydney Olympic Park is in the inner western suburbs of Sydney, 16km from the Central Business District. There are plenty of dining options nearby, with restaurants covering fine dining, sushi, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Italian, and modern Australian, along with numerous fast food chains. Hotels on site include (in decreasing star rating order) Pullman at Sydney Olympic Park, the Novotel Sydney Olympic Park, Quest Apartments, Hotel Ibis, and Ibis Budget Hotel. Dorm style accommodation is also available in The Lodge, managed by the YMCA.
It's fair to say fans of WSW are amongst the passionate of any sports team in the country. However, the main supporter group, Red and Black Bloc (RBB), have built a somewhat infamous reputation. We've repeatedly reported on violence, flares, crude language, offensive behaviour, and their obscene tifo featuring a distasteful image of rival Sydney FC's head coach. The RBB reserve the section immediately behind the goals at the southern end.
The more moderate but no less passionate West Sydney Terrace group (WST), are in the northeast corner. Unlike RBB, the WST has been known to do things like hand out Easter chocolate and stickers to kids in the vicinity, which is a nice touch.
See the videos below to watch the RBB and WST in action:
No one can question the dedication of WSW fans; they are truly committed to their team, and are proud supporters. However, at times it is a fine line, as the game of football has a perception problem in the mainstream media, and amongst sections of Australian society. Rightly or wrongly, the behaviour of football fans is subject to a higher level of scrutiny than most other sports in this country, with any behaviour perceived as not being family friendly splashed across the nightly news, as well as the front pages of the papers.
However, in general here at Spotless Stadium you will not witness anything untoward, except the odd snippet of foul language - and even then, probably less than occurs at many other sporting events. Some fans are openly drawn to the excitement of the two supporter groups, which clearly adds to the WSW experience.
There are plenty of options when travelling to Sydney Olympic Park. If you plan on driving, check to see what other events are being hosted at the Park on the day; there can be traffic hassles and difficulty parking if it's a particularly busy day, or in Friday night peak hour. Most of the time though, driving is a good option; park in the P1 car park, which will cost you a maximum of $25 for the duration.
If you're considering public transport, then a train is a good bet, with the station only a short walk from the stadium. There are bag searches and security to pass through upon entry, but that is quite common at most venues these days.
The stadium has aged quite well - the concourse is a little tight in places, but mostly assists smooth flow of foot traffic, and the bathrooms are clean and plentiful.
Adult tickets start around the $30 mark, with the cheapest ticket for a family of four running just over $75. The experience is solid, but with parking and food you'll likely be looking at over $160. Does this represent good value? We think so.
Bonuses at Spotless Stadium include free programs, a kids' zone down the northern end, and some of the most passionate fans of any team in the country.
The Wanderers have built their identity in an amazingly short period of time, and may yet help awaken the sleeping giant of Australian sport. It's only a temporary home, and not a football ground, but Spotless Stadium still has a lot of things going for it.
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9 Olympic Blvd
Sydney Olympic Park, NSW 2127
+61 2 8762 1700
11 Olympic Blvd
Sydney Olympic Park, NSW 2127
+61 2 8762 1111
Sydney Olympic Park, NSW 2127
+61 2 8762 1100