Future of Gabba uncertain after Brisbane’s new Olympic plan

The Queensland Government recently decided to ditch the planned rebuild of the iconic Gabba in Brisbane. The stadium will now be able to host cricket matches at the Olympics in 2032. However, there is an air of uncertainty regarding the long-term future of the ground.

The Gabba will be able to host international as well as Big Bash League matches up to and beyond the 2032 Brisbane Olympics. The stadium will undergo renovation, costing $500 million. The initial plan was to rebuild the stadium with a whopping budget of $2.7 billion. However, it was announced this week by the Queensland Government that they were shunning the plan, which would have seen the stadium out of action between 2029 and 2032.

Instead, the state government has decided to spend $1.6bn on refurbishing the Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre built for the 1982 Commonwealth Games to host track and field athletics events, while the remaining portion of the funding would be divided “roughly half-half” between the Gabba and the Suncorp Stadium. Interestingly, in a departure from the Olympic norms, the Suncorp Stadium will be hosting the opening and closing ceremonies. The Gabba, meanwhile, will be hosting the cricket event, which is set to return to the Olympics in 2028 in Los Angeles.

“We will deliver refurbishments at the Gabba. Since we put together this original Games plan cricket wasn’t an Olympic sport, it is now, and we’ll be able to play cricket at the Gabba and broadcast those images right around the world, particularly into the subcontinent where we know they are cricket obsessed,” Queensland Premier Steven Miles said while announcing the changes, as quoted by cricket.com.au.

“This means cricket and AFL will not be displaced from the Gabba, they will continue to be able to play at the Gabba throughout the entire Games preparation period.”

However, several major issues with the Gabba have surfaced in the independent review. Cricket Australia and Queensland Cricket prudently welcomed the fresh developments.

“Cricket Australia and Queensland Cricket welcome the findings of Graham Quirk and his panel’s review of Olympic venue infrastructure, and the State Government’s subsequent commitment to refurbish the Gabba, as we eagerly look forward to cricket being played at the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games,” the statement read.

“We also acknowledge that the Premier’s commitment to invest in the Gabba ensures that cricket is not displaced between now and the Games, allowing Brisbane Heat and international cricket matches to continue to be played in Brisbane. We will continue to work closely with the State Government and all relevant stakeholders to ensure that the forthcoming capital investment in the Gabba and the wider precinct delivers on the expectations of cricket fans into the future.”

The Gabba will have a hard time meeting the expectations as the independent review of the venue isn’t very promising.

The review, led by former Lord Mayor Graham Quirk, had recommended demolishing the Gabba after building a new $3.4bn stadium in the city’s north, to which international and Big Bash cricket would have shifted after the Olympics.

However, that recommendation didn’t get the nod from the state government, which was concerned about the financial constraints.

“It is no longer fit-for-purpose and falls significantly short of the quality of facility enjoyed by spectators in almost all other oval stadiums in Australia,” the report said.

“The facilities for visiting teams are appalling, with rooms too small for players, no air conditioning and the need for makeshift ice baths outside toilet cubicles. The Gabba’s back-of-house operations are severely compromised by poor connectivity and lack of space and facilities for stadium hirers, staff, athletes and other stadium users are in many cases appalling.”