Regarding: Gabba Redevelopment, Displacement and Allan Border Field
A Letter to the Queensland Cricket Community
Dear clubs, associations, affiliates, life members, past and present players, coaches, umpires, volunteers, sponsors, parents, fans, and supporters of Queensland Cricket.
As we enter the second half of 2023, and step-up plans for the 2023-24 season, it has become evident that cricket in Queensland is entering the most complex and uncertain era it has faced.
Like all Queenslanders, we proudly celebrated the announcement that Brisbane and South-East Queensland had been successful in securing the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Queensland Cricket and Cricket Australia congratulated the Queensland Government on its commitment to develop a new world-class stadium at the Gabba as the centrepiece of both Games, tying together significant infrastructure investment such as Cross River Rail and the regeneration of the Woolloongabba precinct.
However, there are significant unknowns around the Gabba project, including the level of detail that is needed by stakeholders about the decision-making process for both the Gabba and other related infrastructure projects.
The planning and the relevant timeframes for delivery of this critical infrastructure is now causing considerable uncertainty for cricket in Queensland, especially with regards to preparations for a seven-year period from 2025, which is when we expect the Gabba will be unavailable from.
This letter is to provide our cricket community with an update on a clear and factual outline of the status of these issues, and the steps we are proposing to key partners, including all levels of government, to identify solutions that will benefit all.
From the outset, Australian Cricket has proactively engaged with governments in the exacting and intricate process that surrounds major events such as the Olympic and
Paralympic Games, a nation-building initiative that will have significant positive impacts on Queensland.
However, before that can happen, there needs to be greater clarity around the planning in the short, medium, and long-term.
The immediate priorities, from Cricket’s perspective, revolve around what measures need to be put in place between now and 2025 when the redevelopment of the Gabba is scheduled to commence, where we will play matches between then and 2032, and finally what sort of legacy will be left for cricket post-Olympics and Paralympics.
Importantly, our focus throughout this process is to not only maintain cricket’s presence in Brisbane but also identify opportunities to grow the game out to 2032 and beyond, and we are seeking support from governments at all levels to ensure this.
DISPLACEMENT AND IMPACT
Regrettably, the level of detail surrounding the Gabba project’s timeframes has yet to be announced.
As a result, we face the real prospect of losing important Test and BBL cricket matches from Queensland to interstate venues during the pre-Olympic displacement from the Gabba and hold a reasonable fear that a suitable solution to enable continuity of matches in Brisbane may not meet our needs or expectations.
As a not-for-profit body, our concerns encompass the effect such uncertainty could have on participation throughout Queensland and the ensuing material financial impact across multiple areas of the sport, including at the grass roots level.
We are preparing ourselves for a worst-case scenario where cricket could face the loss of access to the Gabba for potentially greater than seven years during the period of demolition, construction, and post-Games return.
We are working to ensure that we are fully prepared for when the Gabba work is scheduled to begin in December 2025 following the Ashes Test at the venue.
At this stage, this will mean BBL matches in January 2026 will need to be played elsewhere, as will the remainder of the Sheffield Shield and One Day Cup seasons.
It has been speculated that the Gabba rebuild would be a four-year process. It has been suggested that cricket could be played at the venue post-2029 for at least a season before reverting to its Olympic Games configuration. As outlined below, this can only be achieved subject to key decisions being made about the long-term status of the pitch block.
In summary, Queensland Cricket and Cricket Australia will require fit for purpose venues between 2026-27 and 2029-30 seasons, and again between the 2030-31 and 2031-32 seasons.
We see the Allan Border Field precinct playing a major role in hosting more cricket while the Gabba is being redeveloped, while other options presently available to cricket will mitigate some of the displacement challenges, including Carrara Stadium on the Gold Coast and regional centres.
Queensland Cricket will strongly advocate for top level cricket (Test Matches, Women’s, and Men’s Big Bash League (W/BBL), ODIs, T20Is) to continue to be played in Brisbane during those seasons when the Gabba is unavailable.
The most efficient, cost-effective, and timely option to enable this is for Allan Border Field to be upgraded with a capacity of 10,000 permanent seats.
Allan Border Field already possesses a permanent wicket block and cricket-specific infrastructure such as sight screens, vision screen, field lighting, and broadcast requirements, as well as outdoor and indoor training facilities.
With additional seating capacity, it stands ready to meet the needs of cricket during an extended disruption period.
Allan Border Field currently hosts Women's Internationals, WBBL and domestic cricket matches, and increased capacity would enable it to host BBL and Men's International games, while remaining a boutique cricket venue with established green space and a continuing connection to our local community.
We estimate that the timing of this proposal would need to be enacted and completed by 2026 for use in the 2026-27 season.
The upgraded Allan Border Field project would deliver a cricket legacy, becoming a key national hub for Elite Women’s cricket during, and post Olympics. Should cricket be included in the Olympics for 2032, then the venue would be ready and available for use.
THE NEW GABBA
We envisage the redevelopment of the Gabba would deliver fit-for-purpose facilities for players, officials, curators, members, fans, broadcasters and media and commercial partners.
It is the firm stance of Cricket Australia and Queensland Cricket that a permanent pitch block be retained at the Gabba for its post-Games configuration.
Whilst no decisions have been made about the configuration of the new Gabba Stadium, the preliminary planning that we have been briefed on contains an onsite nursery and access provisions to be integrated into the design to utilise drop-in pitch technology.
Whilst we understand that preliminary design work on a major project must encompass as wide a brief as possible, it is the strong stance of Cricket Australia and Queensland Cricket that a permanent pitch block be retained at the Gabba for its post-Games configuration.
Advice from Cricket Australia and leading cricket curators is that their experience on similar pitches has shown that at least five years is required to be confident a pitch could be used for international cricket in the longest form of the game – five days for a Test match.
The most recent instance of a drop-in pitch being employed for Test cricket matches in Australia was at Perth Stadium. In that instance, the timeframe to establish a suitable nursery location and have a pitch fit for purpose to host a Test match was almost five years.
Financial risks associated with previous drop-in pitch performance means extensive quality control is now required to ensure pitches meet certain standards for international cricket.
Based on this assessment, the earliest a drop-in pitch capable of handling long-form cricket could be available for use would be by 2028, assuming the process started this year.
Other relevant detail surrounding drop-in pitches to be considered include the following assessments.
- For Big Bash and T20 cricket, a drop-in pitch would be ready to use in approximately two to three years (see discussion on RNA Showgrounds proposal below)
- The difference is essentially quality control to ensure a pitch can last five days for a Test match (and this would need to fully tested via Sheffield Shield cricket well prior to the Test)
- In contrast, a permanent pitch takes approximately 18 months to be ready for regular play.
- In terms of other venues, Allan Border Field, Great Barrier Reef Arena in Mackay, Riverway Stadium in Townsville, and Cazalys Stadium in Cairns have permanent pitch blocks.
- Carrara Stadium has three drop-in pitches that are housed and grown at the venue with two pitches able to be installed for its cricket requirements in stadium.
ALBION & BREAKFAST CREEK PRECINCT
As outlined earlier, Queensland Cricket believes upgraded permanent seating capacity at the existing Allan Border Field precinct in Albion will deliver an appropriate solution to the challenges caused by the Gabba displacement.
The value of investing in a cricket-specific venue aligns with Queensland Cricket's long-term outlook for the precinct, both in its own right, and as part of an Olympic precinct.
However, there are several elements to consider with regards to the local area masterplan developed by Queensland Cricket for the venue.
The Albion area is currently identified as being part of the Olympic Venues plan, with an Indoor Sport centre listed at the Breakfast Creek aspect of the site.
There remains the possibility that Queensland Cricket’s existing footprint (a Brisbane City Council leasehold) could be significantly impacted by traffic and transport plans aligned to this Olympic venue project.
Artist interpretation of Queensland Cricket’s vision.
The possibility also exists that cricket as a sport could feature in the 2032 Olympics, which would most likely encompass Allan Border Field being utilised in some capacity. Again, an upgraded venue would complement any additional requirements should this transpire.
Cricket specific infrastructure requires a significant lead-in to be fully utilised for optimal playing conditions at the elite level.
The RNA Showgrounds at neighbouring Bowen Hills has been identified as a possible site for a sporting precinct.
Queensland Cricket is open to hearing more about the RNA Showgrounds option but there is currently no cricket infrastructure at the RNA and the delivery of such would present some challenges.
The RNA proposal is aimed at hosting five BBL matches a season in a December/January window and utilising a drop-in pitch.
Under this proposal, Queensland Cricket and Cricket Australia would still need fit for purpose alternate locations to host Test Cricket, Sheffield Shield, WBBL and Women’s international cricket.
Hence, our preference for ensuring continuity of Elite Cricket in Brisbane when the Gabba is unavailable is an upgraded Allan Border Field, with existing cricket infrastructure that can host this level of cricket while being bolstered by an improved capacity. We believe that an upgraded Allan Border Field represents the most cost-effective solution with greatest long-term benefit to the community.
Carrara Stadium on the Gold Coast will also certainly play an important role, although there are limitations on how much cricket can be played there across a season.
The information provided in this letter is designed to inform our stakeholders in a timely and proactive manner, as well as share with you what we believe are issues critical to address for the betterment of cricket.
We do so transparently and in a collaborative spirit. However, timing and decisiveness will be paramount.
We are committed to working with all relevant stakeholders, including the Queensland Government, Australian Government, Brisbane City Council, Cricket Australia, the AFL, and Brisbane Lions to ensure the best possible, cost effective solution for Queenslanders.
Chair - Chris Simpson
Chief Executive Officer- Terry Svenson