Queensland spells out future for sports stadia

Ballymore Stadium, regarded as the spiritual home of Queensland rugby union, should be demolished while a process is set to commence to find a naming rights partner for iconic cricket ground the Gabba, following the release of a review into the Australian state’s sports stadia.

Having been launched in April, the findings of the Stadiums Queensland Taskforce Final Report were revealed today (Wednesday). The independent taskforce was formed to evaluate the operating and commercial principles of the nine venues managed and operated by Stadiums Queensland (SQ) as part of the state’s first Sport and Active Recreation Strategy.

Ballymore Stadium serves as the home of the Queensland Rugby Union (QRU) and while the Reds Super Rugby franchise moved to Suncorp Stadium in 2006, it still acts as a venue for the sport. The report found that Ballymore should not be expanded, with the QRU having previously submitted a proposal for a 24,000-seat stadium, because maintenance costs are running at an annual loss of Aus$1.5m (£853,000/€948,000/$1.08m).

“The Ballymore venue is not ideal as a location for a major stadium facility as it does not meet contemporary standards for a major stadium facility,” the report states. “(It has) limited road access to the site, close proximity to the residential neighbourhood and no access to scheduled high-frequency and multi-modal public transport. The Ballymore venue is more aligned to being a training, club participation and administrative hub for rugby and compatible sports as opposed to being a location for a major stadium.”

The QRU has also outlined a proposal to redevelop the stadium into a national training centre and the home of the Australian women’s national team. It stated the taskforce’s findings tied in with its preference for the venue. “We are pleased that the report has acknowledged the issues around Ballymore and we look forward to talking to the state government about its future,” a QRU spokesman told the Brisbane Times newspaper.

Elsewhere, it has been announced that an expression of interest for naming rights at the Gabba (pictured) is anticipated for release by early 2019. In July, the Queensland government confirmed that the Brisbane Cricket Ground would continue to be known by its nickname, the Gabba, should any naming-rights deal be struck for the venue.

The state government, which owns the iconic stadium, is seeking a sponsor for the venue in order to maintain its status as one of the country’s leading cricket grounds.

The report has also moved to dampen hopes that a new stadium could be developed in Brisbane to cater for events that would not justify the use of the 52,500-seat Suncorp Stadium. Sports Minister Mick de Brenni said the report confirms that the state has enough stadiums to support the existing sporting landscape, as well as potential future events.

John Lee, who chaired the review, added: “Queensland has stadiums in regional areas and faces different challenges to other states which have their main stadium infrastructure in their capital cities. The main focus for the foreseeable future should be on maintaining and upgrading Queensland’s existing stadiums to ensure hirers and the fans get the very best experience.”

Finally, the report has recommended a significant downgrading of the Queensland Sports and Athletics Centre, which hosted the 1982 Commonwealth Games. The 48,000-capacity stadium still has the temporary stands that were put in place for the multi-sport event, but has been mainly unused since the Games.

“The number of major events that use all stands in the main stadium at the Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre are reducing over time as a result of better options being available at Suncorp Stadium and the expanding of the Gabba for one-off major events,” the report added.

“The temporary aluminium grandstands at either end of the main stadium were built for the 1982 Commonwealth Games. The cost of maintaining these stands is inconsistent with the amount of use they receive for one-off major events.”

Image: Queensland.com