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State, federal governments agree A$7bn Brisbane 2032 venue plan

Images: Queensland Government

The Australian and Queensland Governments have today (Friday) unveiled a A$7bn (£4bn/€4.49bn/$4.78bn) funding agreement to overhaul the state’s sporting infrastructure ahead of the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Brisbane, focusing on redevelopment of The Gabba and construction of the new Brisbane Live arena.

Today’s announcement will see the Queensland Government fund the A$2.7bn redevelopment of The Gabba stadium, while the Federal Government will provide A$2.5bn for the Brisbane Arena development otherwise known as Brisbane Live. In addition, 16 new or upgraded venues will receive close to A$1.87bn in co-funding on a 50/50 basis between the two governments.

The Gabba, formally known as Brisbane Cricket Ground, has a current capacity of 42,000 and is primarily used for cricket but also hosts AFL Aussie rules football and other sports. The Gabba will be fully demolished and rebuilt to a 50,000 capacity and will anchor major urban renewal including delivering more housing, including social and affordable housing.

The A$2.7bn redevelopment will see the stadium fully demolished and rebuilt, with improved disability access and better transport connection. Given the complexity of building on a constrained site, officials have determined that completely rebuilding The Gabba is cheaper than trying to bring it to a truly accessible, modern standard. 

The new Gabba will include a pedestrian walkway linking the stadium to the new Cross River Rail station and future Metro station, via a bridge over Main Street, making it one of the most accessible stadiums in the country. 

The current stadium is nearing the end of its life and the redevelopment intends to support the long-term professional sport, community and entertainment needs of the city before and after 2032. For Brisbane 2032, it is intended to host Olympic and Paralympic athletics and ceremonies.

The Gabba

Design firm Populous has provided concept designs, but a competitive tender process with the market is expected to commence in the second half of 2023 at which point a final design process for The Gabba will get underway. Construction is likely to take four years from 2026 and be ready for use by 2030.

Queensland Deputy Premier, Steven Miles, said: “The Gabba will be more than just an events stadium. We want it to be activated 24/7 so that living near it will be exciting and fun. It will be the main interchange between Cross River Rail and Brisbane Metro. You’ll be able to get around without a car and walk or scooter to the City or South Bank.

“The redevelopment will anchor major urban renewal and deliver more affordable housing, dining and retail. The current Gabba is an international icon, but a tired one.  In some circumstances people in wheelchairs can only access their allocated seats using the goods lift. 

“There are no women’s change rooms. Elite women athletes have less space to prepare for games and are stuck using change rooms that include urinals because they were built only for male athletes. 

“It’s unacceptable. Queensland athletes and fans deserve a modern, accessible, safe, fit-for-purpose major stadium that will attract and host world-class national and international sporting and entertainment events. And Queenslanders deserve a Games legacy that will serve them for decades to come.”

The IOC approved Brisbane as the home of the 2032 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in July 2021, culminating a process that stepped away from the traditional contests for the hosting rights. At that time, redeveloping The Gabba was expected to cost A$1bn, but Queensland’s Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, admitted in August that this price tag was likely to be breached.

Speaking today, Palaszczuk said, according to broadcaster the ABC: “Prices have gone up for commodities and everything, and… we’re going to be doing the demolition. This is not unusual; this is happening with projects all around the world.”

Brisbane Live

Brisbane Arena is planned to be built within the Roma Street precinct with easy access for people of all mobilities to the city’s rail and bus network. It will host Olympic and Paralympic swimming, and water polo finals, completing the list of venues that will put 16 Olympic sports within walking distance of each other.

Construction of the new 17,000-seat venue is expected to start in 2027, with completion in 2030. In October, it was reported that race to develop the new arena had become a competitive tender process, with Oak View Group (OVG) emerging as a contender for the contract.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said: “The 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games will be the largest event that’s ever been held in Queensland. The Australian Government has worked cooperatively with the Palaszczuk Government to secure infrastructure projects that will have a long-term and transformational impact on Queensland as we count down to 2032.

“My Government is ensuring that every dollar that is invested has lasting benefits, not just for Brisbane but for all Queenslanders and all Australians.”

Brisbane Live

The venue masterplan agreed today also includes:

Upgrade nine existing venues: 

Wyaralong Flatwater Centre and Precinct – Rowing

Sunshine Coast Stadium – Football

Brisbane Aquatic Centre and Precinct – Aquatics (including diving, artistic swimming and water polo preliminaries)

Barlow Park (Cairns) – Football

Toowoomba Sports Ground – Football

Brisbane International Shooting Centre – Shooting

Sunshine Coast Mountain Bike Centre – Mountain Biking

Anna Meares Velodrome and BMX Track – Track, BMX Racing

Queensland Tennis Centre – Tennis

Construction of five new venues: 

Breakfast Creek (Brisbane) Indoor Sports Centre – Basketball and Wheelchair Basketball

Chandler Indoor Sports Centre – Gymnastics and Wheelchair Basketball

Sunshine Coast Indoor Sports Centre – Basketball

Moreton Bay Indoor Sports Centre – Boxing

Redlands Whitewater Centre – Canoe

Welcoming the funding agreement, Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) CEO, Matt Carroll, said Brisbane 2032 will be the first Games to benefit from the International Olympic Committee’s ‘New Norm’ arrangements.

The New Norm focuses on using existing facilities while any new venues must demonstrate a lasting community legacy. Carroll said: “The redevelopment of The Gabba is certainly welcome for the Olympics, but importantly it will be hosting major international and domestic sport long well before the opening ceremony on July 23, 2032. And, of course, for decades after the Games.

“Equally, the Brisbane Arena development in the Roma Street precinct will provide a wonderful venue for swimming, but it’s proposed as a long-term convention, entertainment, and indoor sports facility. This fits exactly into the New Norm model. Some 85% of Games venues already exist, while these new facilities offer lasting benefit to south-east Queensland.

“From the outset we have emphasised that the Olympics will be a catalyst for much needed community infrastructure, while bringing lasting benefits for tourism, jobs, economic growth and lifestyle benefits.

“With today’s announcement, we are seeing the New Norm in action and another chapter written ahead of a wonderful Games in 2032.”