Seeking to end their status as the competition's "nomads," Western United will attempt to stage A-League Men and A-League Women games out of its newly constructed training base in Melbourne's west during the 2023-24 season.
Under construction since March 2022, the club laid the surface at the regional football centre in Tarneit, which is a joint project of Wyndham City Council and United's parent company Western Melbourne Group, on Wednesday. It said it has also begun the process of contacting suppliers of temporary seating and other necessary amenities to the venue into a 5000 to 8000-capacity venue suitable for hosting its men's and women's sides.
Taking inspiration from Perth Glory's recent stint at Macedonia Park while renovations for the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup were undertaken at HBF Park, the venue would serve as a stopgap measure "for the next two to three seasons" until the club's promised stadium, which was at the centrepiece of their 2018 bid to join the A-Leagues, is built.
United officials envision a scenario where an almost festival-like atmosphere is constructed around their temporary home, attracting more people than can secure tickets for the games themselves. This would then create an excess level of demand that can be capitalised on with their stadium, information on which was said to be coming in the "next couple of months."
Speaking to ESPN, chief executive Chris Pehlivanis said the club has been communicating with league administrators the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) over the requirements associated with shifting senior men's and women's matches to Tarneit. He said that while several criteria needed to be met and ticked off before a shift to the venue could be confirmed, the efforts were an important step towards building the club's identity in Melbourne's west.
"[The facility] would ideally be in October or November of this year, that would be when we want to open it," United chief executive Chris Pehlivanis told ESPN. "Realistically that's very weather dependent, there are a lot of things that need to go in there between now and then, but that's our project plan at this stage.
"The plan is to play every single game under our banner at this precinct. A-League Men, A-League Women, and NPL. That's going to be the home of Western United. Build something special, something that all of the western corridor can be proud of.
"That is our ambition, that is our plan. There's a lot of work to go into that but that's what we're setting out to do.
"We're meeting with the APL as we speak to go through the minimum regulations. Work through upgrading what is required and some of the things that we've put in place.
"Upgrading the lights for broadcast, we've upgraded the scoreboard, there will be some additional seating. Working through the APL regulations to make sure that we get it to a level that everyone's happy with and it becomes a bit of a boutique small stadium and a fortress."
United's men have played nominal home games at venues across Victoria and Tasmania during its four years of existence, with the men's side playing out of AAMI Park, Ballarat, and Tasmania throughout 2022-23. Previous seasons have also seen them play multiple home games, including their first-ever A-Leagues fixture, in Geelong.
Just a single game across this four-year existence, however, has been played within their supposed heartland of west Melbourne -- a game against Adelaide United at Whitten Oval in their first season. The club's women's side played at City Vista Reserve in the western Melbourne suburb of Caroline Springs in their first campaign, attracting relatively strong crowds, but the venue is not suitable for larger fixtures.
Pehlivanis confirmed that the club would also return to Tasmania for two "home" games in 2023-24 but that these fixtures, combined with the possibility of front-loading their fixture with road trips, could provide a buffer for any delays in the preparation of the training base.
"It's massive," coach of the defending Men's champions United John Aloisi told ESPN. "We're going to play out of an area that we represent. That will be huge for not only the area but also for us as a team and players. You'll have your home support, you can make it a fortress.
"It hasn't been easy. We didn't complain about it but it's not easy playing in quite a few different stadiums with, at times, not big crowds coming to watch. It's not easy for the players, it's not easy to get energy from the fans.
"If it's five, six, seven thousand that we're going to be playing in front of our training base next season then we can make that into an incredible atmosphere.
"It will be like an extra player for us. I can't wait. It's been four years that the supporters and the rest of the club have been waiting, so it's exciting times."