$2.7b Gabba plan, Victoria Park officially scrapped in a massive shake-up of Brisbane Olympics

$2.7b Gabba plan, Victoria Park officially scrapped in a massive shake-up of Brisbane Olympics

The original proposal for a $2.7 billion redevelopment of the Gabba

The redevelopment of the Gabba has been officially scrapped along with a last-minute proposal for a new stadium at Victoria Park in a major shake-up of the Queensland Government’s plans for the 2032 Brisbane Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The government has also given the green light for the new Brisbane Arena, a 17,000-seat sports and entertainment venue earmarked to rise above Roma Street Railway Station in the heart of the city, but in a different location at Roma Street precinct.

Fresh from a stinging rebuke by voters in two by-elections in Labor heartland in Ipswich and Inala, Premier Steven Miles has accepted 27 of 30 recommendations from the independent Sport Venue Review for the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games undertaken by former Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk.

While the government has agreed to continue with vital maintenance work at the Brisbane Cricket Ground, better known as the Gabba, the government has turned its attention to upgrades for Suncorp Stadium at Milton and the Queensland Sports and Athletics Centre (QSAC) at Nathan as the main stadiums for the Games.

QSAC, which was originally known as QEII Stadium, hosted the 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth Games. Should it become the venue for the Brisbane Olympics Opening and Closing Ceremonies, it will mark 50 years since the stadium hosted a major global sporting event.

However, the Quirk report recommended against using QSAC as a Games venue, urging the government to consider a proposal for a new stadium at Victoria Park. With the cost estimated to be about $3.4 billion, the Victoria Park option was considerably more expensive than the Gabba redevelopment which was doggedly pursued by former Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk since the Games were first announced for Brisbane.

The key issue facing QSAC is that it is not directly serviced by the suburban rail network, although the state government says the proposed redevelopment of the site would deliver opportunities to expand transport links servicing the stadium as well as nearby Griffith University and the QEII Hospital health precinct.

The government notes that Suncorp Stadium and QSAC are the “two most highly used venues in Queensland”, with QSAC hosting about 782,000 visits in 2022-23.

The government says a new stadium at Victoria Park, which is the largest open space in the inner Brisbane area, would not be possible within the existing agreed funding.

It also notes that a new stadium for the Olympic and Paralympic Games sits outside the “new norm” of using existing or already planned venues put forward to the International Olympic Committee.

The government has ruled out a stadium at Victoria Park on these grounds in favour of exploring upgrades to QSAC and Suncorp.

The 60-day Sport Venue Review headed by Quirk received more than 900 submissions from the public and was informed by 130 meetings with stakeholders.

The government says the review was aimed at prioritising “community benefit while ensuring costs remain within the agreed funding envelope of $7.1 billion to be shared between the state and commonwealth governments”.

Among the other proposed venues that will not proceed are the Breakfast Creek Indoor Sports Precinct at Albion, which is currently home to the Albion Park Harness Racing Club, after the review recommended a new indoor sports centre to be located in Brisbane’s north at Zillmere or Boondall instead.

Concept design for the Victoria Park Olympic Stadium by design firm Archipelago

 

The planned upgrades to the Toowoomba Sports Ground will not proceed, but the government says opportunities to host other Games events in the region will be explored.

The Gabba redevelopment proposal, which was mired in controversy over its multibillion-dollar cost, disruption to cricket and AFL matches as well as associated compensation for sports organisations, and the planned demolition of historic East Brisbane State School, has been dead in the water since Palaszczuk was toppled by Miles as Premier late last year.

“This review was one of my very first acts as Premier of Queensland and was driven by what Queenslanders told me was important to them – bang for buck and a lasting legacy,” says Miles.

“No one wants to see money spent on facilities that are only needed for four weeks. Instead, this new direction will deliver decades of benefit to local schools, community athletics programs and Olympic and Paralympic athletes in 2032 and beyond.”

Miles says instead of the demise of a “beloved venue” in the Gabba, the government is proposing a “more modest enhancement of the existing facility in consultation with AFL, Cricket Australia, and other stakeholders”.

“And while the concept of a new stadium at Victoria Park has merit, the uncertainty around final cost means it is unfortunately not an option,” says Miles.

The government plans to complete due diligence on new venues in the next few months in order to facilitate a start to construction as soon as possible.

The sports venue program will come under the authority of the Independent Delivery Authority which is expected to be established mid-year.

“With the review completed, we’ll be wasting no time with getting on with the job with a range of venues proceeding through to the next stage of delivery,” says Grace Grace, the Minister for State Development and Infrastructure.

“Venues at the Sunshine Coast – the Indoor Sports Centre, Stadium Upgrade and Mountain Bike Facility, as well as the Chandler precinct projects can now progress to procurement with others following soon after.”

IOC vice president John Coates, who was one of the high-profile advocates for abandoning a new Gabba stadium, says the QSAC upgrade would be welcomed by Athletics Australia.

“Queensland and Australian athletics will be left with a legacy venue for the development of the sport in Queensland,” says Coates.

“Sydney 2000 left a competition and warm-up track legacy for athletics, a legacy missing from the London, Rio, and Tokyo Games.

“The IOC will make available its Games construction experts to advise in respect of the potential upgrades to QSAC, including specifically whether the full $1 billion of suggested upgrades are needed.”

Andrew Liveris, president of the Brisbane 2032 Organising Committee, has called for due diligence on proposed venues to be completed quickly.

“The Olympic and Paralympic Games must fit the region, not the region fit the Games, and we will use the venues and infrastructure made available to us,” says Liveris.

“Time and cost estimates are of the essence and progress must move swiftly.

“Once decisions are finalised, we will work with the International Olympic Committee and International Paralympic Committee to refine our venue master plan and sport program, in line with our Olympic host contract commitments.”

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