The Parramatta Eels and Western Sydney Wanderers have unveiled a $120 million proposal to turn Pirtek Stadium into a 32,000-seat venue that would supersede plans to build a new stadium in western Sydney.
The Eels and Wanderers met with Venues NSW and Parramatta City Council on Thursday to discuss the proposal to build new grandstands at the northern and southern ends of the ground that would link the Ken Thornett and Mick Cronin stands.
There are also plans to build commercial space into the back of the proposed new grandstands that would allow for restaurants, cafes and offices to bring revenue into the precinct.
It comes a fortnight after Fairfax Media revealed a proposal has been put forward to sell the greyhound racetrack at Wentworth Park for a billion-dollar residential development that would fund a new 35,000-seat roofed stadium in Penrith.
The No.1 priority for the Parramatta precinct is to establish new training facilities and a high performance centre that would provide the Eels with a new gym, rehabilitation facilities and an extension of the training field from 70 metres to 110 metres.
That will run concurrently with a redevelopment of the stadium that includes an upgrade of its facilities and an increase in capacity by almost 12,000.
''Members and fans need to understand that we want to make a long term commitment to playing games in Parramatta,'' Eels chief executive Scott Seward said.
''We want a 32,000-seat stadium in Parramatta. It's the home of the Eels. Yes, there's a commercial reality, but we want to be playing games here. Our first priority is to establish a training and high performance centre for the players which is up to NRL standard. It's a recruitment and retention tool that we currently don't have.
''We also want to increase the capacity of the ground, and we've been working closely with the Western Sydney Wanderers to develop that. Thursday's meeting was the most productive meeting we've had and we now have a clear pathway of the direction we want to go. We want to provide a great experience, and to do that we need to update things such as the ground's Wi-Fi capabilities.''
Pirtek Stadium was given a $29 million government grant last year ($20 million federal, $6 million state and $3 million local) to upgrade the venue and the Eels and Wanderers have been debating the best way to use the money.
The Wanderers have close to 16,000 members but do not train at Parramatta, while the Eels are based at Pirtek Stadium and have more than 15,000 members.
It is understood the Wanderers and Eels have now agreed on how the money should be spent.
The Eels have a 12-month licence at Old King's School across the road from Pirtek Stadium that expires at the end of the year.
The club wants to extend its contract and is pushing for a long term lease that will provide a second training option that would cater for their NRL, National Youth League, SG Ball and Harold Matthews teams, as well as to be used as a community facility.
The Eels now play nine home games a year at Pirtek Stadium, two at ANZ Stadium and one in the Northern Territory.
The proposal for a new stadium in Penrith includes an aquatic centre, with discussions about the venue being controlled by the ANZ Stadium Trust.
This would allow the four western Sydney-based NRL teams – Parramatta, Canterbury, Penrith and Wests Tigers – to split home matches between ANZ Stadium and the new Penrith stadium based on the number of fans each game is expected to attract.
The Penrith stadium proposal has been backed by Penrith MP Stuart Ayres, who was appointed this week Minister for Sport, taking over from Gabrielle Upton as part of a cabinet shuffle.
It is unclear what impact Ayres' appointment will have on the Parramatta proposal given his ties to Penrith.