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Sydney in multi-billion-dollar stadium splurge

© AFP/File | Sydney FC players train at the 45,500-capacity Allianz Stadium

SYDNEY (AFP) - 

Sydney's two biggest stadiums will be torn down and rebuilt in a major Aus$2 billion (US$1.5 billion) redevelopment, the state government said Friday, in a controversial move that critics called a waste of money.

The 83,500-capacity ANZ Stadium -- completed in 1999 for Sydney's hosting of the 2000 Olympic Games -- will be replaced by a 75,000-seat rectangular ground, New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

Allianz Stadium, which can seat up to 45,500 and was opened in 1988, will be demolished with a similarly sized arena constructed in its place.

"Fans will be closer to the action than ever before, with steep seating creating a colosseum-inspired wall of sound and colour, enhanced with the world's most advanced technology," Berejiklian said.

"This investment means we can compete on the world stage for events such as the FIFA Women's World Cup, the Rugby World Cup."

Her government said the two venues currently attract a combined 3.5 million visitors per year and contribute more than Aus$1 billion to the state's annual economy.

The announcement was welcomed by Australia's leading sport governing bodies, including the National Rugby League and Rugby Australia.

But critics, including the state's Labor opposition leader Luke Foley, said the money could be better spent on boosting schools and hospitals funding.

Foley added that Allianz, in Sydney's wealthier eastern suburbs, could become a "white elephant".

"They will spend hundreds of millions of dollars... on a stadium that won't host grand finals, State of Origins, Bledisloe Cups or the biggest Socceroos qualifiers," national broadcaster ABC quoted him as saying.

"Why are we doing this? Is the (Super Rugby teams) Waratahs vs the Bulls in Super Rugby going to get 45,000 people? They struggle to get 10,000."

Both projects are expected to take several years to complete.

A third stadium, Parramatta, which was the home ground of the football A-League's Western Sydney Wanderers, is currently being redeveloped.

© 2017 AFP