Sydney’s Leichhardt Oval gets $40m to revive what locals call ‘the eighth wonder of the world’

<span>Federal, state and local governments will fund upgrades to Sydney’s Leichhardt Oval.</span><span>Photograph: Steven Markham/AAP</span>
Federal, state and local governments will fund upgrades to Sydney’s Leichhardt Oval.Photograph: Steven Markham/AAP

Sydney’s Leichhardt Oval will get $40m in funding to upgrade its crumbling infrastructure, with the federal government joining state and local governments in a bid to revive what locals have called “the eighth wonder of the world”.

Anthony Albanese announced $20m of federal funding on Friday, with the Inner West council and the New South Wales government contributing another $10m each to modernise the stadium.

A home ground for the NRL’s Wests Tigers, as well as a hub for local sporting fixtures, the 20,000 capacity Leichhardt Oval and its local supporters have been calling for new funding for some time.

Related: How I fell in love with Leichhardt Oval | Michael McGowan

New female change rooms will be built at the stadium, which has increasingly hosted more women’s football matches in recent years, including Sydney FC’s women’s team.

The works will also increase seating capacity by 3,000 and build a new northern grandstand.

Opened in 1934, the suburban stadium has remained a fan favourite in the face of a push to hold the majority of official competition matches at the larger capacity Sydney Football Stadium and Olympic Park.

“There’s nothing better than sitting on Wayne Pearce Hill at Leichhardt Oval,” Albanese said, referring to the popular grassy viewing area.

The stadium is on track to host 120 sporting fixtures in 2024, including both men’s and women’s matches across various codes.

“My government understands the important role suburban grounds play in the quality of life for Australians,” he said.

“This investment will not only be great for the Wests Tigers, but will see Leichhardt Oval continue to be a hub for school, women and girls’ sport. Leichhardt Oval is a place where the faithful can go along and cheer their local sporting teams, and this funding from all three levels of government will ensure that spirit is preserved.”

At a press conference on Friday morning, Albanese recalled fond memories from the stadium.

“I grew up not far from here. I used to catch the 470 bus from outside Pyrmont Bridge Road, get off down the road and walk up on Wednesday nights to watch what was then the AMCO Cup and other sport,” he said.

“We all have memories here. I have memories still. Very recently, I always walk along the hill there, the Tigers fans are passionate but they are generous. They get into you if you have got your Souths gear on, as they should.”

“Here, you can feel the hits, particularly if a bloke like Steve Roach is making them. You can feel the ground move and that’s really important and it’s a part of that belonging that is vital,” Albanese said.

The New South Wales sports minister, Steve Kamper, said the investment would “future-proof” the stadium.

“This funding will ensure the stadium can deliver fit-for-purpose facilities for the next generation of elite, amateur and grassroots athletes,” he said.

Related: Leichhardt Oval: Tigers add latest chapter to rugby league colosseum’s rich history | Angus Fontaine

“Whilst Leichhardt Oval is the spiritual home of the Wests Tigers, this oval has become much more than that. It has become a true community hub and a home for women’s sport.”

The Inner West council voted on Tuesday night to dedicate $10m towards the upgrades. The mayor, Darcy Byrne, described it as a “commitment to saving the eighth wonder of the world”.

“[This is] a crucial and significant step toward the rescue and rejuvenation of one of Australia’s most loved suburban grounds and a future hub of women’s sport in Sydney,” Byrne said