The government has rejected lacklustre greenfield sites near Bowen Hills and instead gone across the river to Queensland’s major AFL and cricket venue at Woolloongabba. If the plan goes ahead, and Queensland secures the games, The Gabba will become a building site for five years while an Olympic-class stadium is built.
The Gabba is normally used around 40 weeks in every year. Taking it out of action will require negotiation with a neighbouring school, the Brisbane Lions and Queensland Bulls, along with the Queensland Cricketers’ Club, which has previously been a stumbling block to work on the stadium. It is yet to be seen whether losing a home ground, and maximum revenue for five years, is worth having a larger, modern venue to return to.
While the International Olympic Committee favours using existing venues, thereby reducing the cost to host cities, Palaszczuk is intent on asking the Commonwealth to help fund a complete rebuild. There is no funding agreement yet, let alone architectural plans, but Palaszczuk suggested the new stadium could cost $1 billion.
Palaszczuk said another 8,000 seats could be added to The Gabba, taking its capacity to 50,000, serviced by the nearby Cross River Rail station currently under construction. It would be higher than the existing stadium, to allow for pedestrian overpasses across nearby roads to funnel patrons directly into the new venue.
That would give The Gabba more seats than the old QE2 stadium, which currently has capacity of 48,500, but fewer seats than Suncorp Stadium (52,500). It would have better transport connections than the Nathan venue and in the circular format that suits athletic events and the Olympic opening and closing ceremonies.
“The Gabba has been home to our sport since 1895,” Palaszczuk said.
“A home for the 2032 Olympic Paralympic Games could be its crowning glory.”
“We’ve hosted the AFL here, we’ve hosted cricket here, but for the Olympics, this is front and centre – opening and closing ceremonies, athletics, you name it, it’s going to be the best,” she told Nine’s Today program.
Palaszczuk told parliament a key factor in deciding to use The Gabba was being able to utilise the adjacent Cross River Rail station. She noted the rail project was being delivered with “not one dollar from the Commonwealth” but her office was not in a position to clarify whether the $1 billion would include any rail station components.
The Gabba was built in 1895 and has undergone two substantial renovations and refurbishments since 1993.
The last major redevelopment was completed in 2005 when a 24-bay grandstand built for $128 million.
The Gabba’s public, corporate and media facilities also received a $35 million upgrade in 2020.
The Labor government will seek financial support from Brisbane City Council and the federal government for the project.
“We do need this, and it’s going to be utilised for the future, so they don’t want white elephants they want workhorses, and The Gabba is definitely a workhorse,” Palaszczuk said.
The International Olympics Committee named Brisbane as its preferred host city in February.
But a final decision rests on detailed discussions with Games chiefs and key commitments from the federal government.
Australian Olympics Committee president John Coates addressed cabinet on Monday, where MPs formally endorsed Brisbane’s candidacy.
“This is still contingent on guarantees that need to be received from the federal government,” Palaszczuk stressed on Monday.
She has had a discussion with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and more talks will occur in the coming weeks.
“We are basically doing years and months of work in a very short time frame to meet the deadlines the IOC has set us,” she said.
The state needed the boost the games would bring, including 130,000 jobs.
“It gives us hope, after going through the pandemic. It gives us hope for the future,” the premier said.
Morrison is expected to have more to say on Queensland’s Olympic plans on Tuesday.
Last month, he told the IOC the Australian government was firmly behind Brisbane to host the games.
But Brisbane is not without rivals.
Earlier this month, South Korea said Seoul had submitted a proposal to host the 2032 games, despite Brisbane’s frontrunner status.
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