Premier’s vow as AFL backs Gabba’s $1bn Olympic upgrade

Annastacia Palaszczuk says her government is still working out the final costing details of the demolition and redevelopment of the Gabba ahead of the proposed 2032 Olympics in Brisbane.

The State Government overnight announced that the famous Brisbane Cricket Ground would be transformed into the Olympics main stadium to host the athletics and opening and closing ceremonies if southeast Queensland's bid is successful.

The stadium's capacity would be expanded from 42,000 seats to 50,000 seats at a proposed cost of about $1 billion.

An artist’s impression of the proposed Gabba redevelopment.
An artist’s impression of the proposed Gabba redevelopment.

The Premier this morning told media her government was working out final costing details.

"We have a proposal in with the federal government at the moment for venues and transport," she said.

"We have said very clearly that we need to share these funding costs and I'll be having more to say about that over the coming days."

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said the Gabba had been an iconic ground for Australian football in the state and the Queensland Government's decision to transform the Gabba into a 50,000-seat world-class venue would leave a lasting legacy for football, sport and the wider community.

"The Gabba is a world-class ground that has played host to football in the state for almost a century and we welcome the announcement today from Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Sports Minister Stirling Hinchliffe and look forward to working with the Government in ensuring the Gabba continues to play a major part in the growth of our game in Queensland for the next 100 years," Mr McLachlan said.

An artist’s impression of the proposed Gabba redevelopment.
An artist’s impression of the proposed Gabba redevelopment.

"The Gabba has played a vital role in the growth of our game and was instrumental in us being able to deliver the 2020 Toyota AFL Premiership season, including hosting our first ever Grand Final outside of Victoria at night at the ground. Today's announcement that the ground will be transformed is great news for Queensland football fans who are already celebrating this week after Brisbane's victory in the NAB AFLW Grand Final at the weekend."

Cricket Australia interim Chief Executive Nick Hockley has also thrown his support behind the plan.

"The 2032 Olympics is a once in a generation opportunity to deliver a comprehensive stadia and infrastructure strategy that positions the Gabba as one of the great stadiums in the world," he wrote in a letter to Sport Minister Stirling Hinchliffe seen by The Courier-Mail.

"In preparing the venue to play a central role in delivering the Olympics, the Queensland Government can also facilitate a legacy for the stadium that ensures it services the distinct requirements of cricket into the future."

Writing to congratulate the Queensland Government in Brisbane becoming the IOC's preferred partner to host the Games, Mr Hockley suggests T20 cricket would be well placed to include on the Olympics program in 2032.

An artist’s impression of the proposed Gabba redevelopment.
An artist’s impression of the proposed Gabba redevelopment.

Ms Palaszczuk flagged how the federal and state government split the funding 50-50 for the Commonwealth Games venues.

She said the previously touted stadium at Albion wasn't ideal because it wasn't connected to public transport.

"What is unique and what is brilliant about this proposal is it links in with the brand new Cross River Rail," she said.

The Premier said there wouldn't need to be any property resumptions for the rebuild, and that the historic buildings of the neighbouring East Brisbane State School will be protected.

An artist’s impression of the proposed Gabba redevelopment.
An artist’s impression of the proposed Gabba redevelopment.

Asked how teams like the Brisbane Lions would be compensated during the rebuild, the Premier said it was a "long way into the distance".

"We'll be working with all of the teams in relation to that," she said.

"But we'll definitely find them an alternative place when the rebuild happens."

The rebuild will begin after Cross River Rail is completed, which is expected in 2024.

A plaza would be built between the new Cross River Rail station and The Gabba, which could be used in its own right as a concert space and a place for medal presentations after events.

And nearby parkland would be commandeered for athlete warm-up facilities, with golf buggies or similar vehicles used to whip competitors to the stadium via a VIP corridor.

It is understood the plan would cost more than $1bn, but final costings have not been determined because the design is not yet finalised.

An artist’s impression of the proposed Gabba redevelopment.
An artist’s impression of the proposed Gabba redevelopment.

Ms Palaszczuk said it was fitting that the historic stadium play a centrepoint for Brisbane's bid to host the Games.

"Every Games needs a home," the Premier said.

"The Gabba has been home to our sport since 1895. A home for the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games could be its crowning glory."

The plan supplants previous thoughts around the possibility of building a new stadium at Albion, with The Gabba far more central for Games visitors and a more central link between the city, Suncorp Stadium and other spectator centres via walkways and public transport.

That would allow the Games to be celebrated across the city backdrop, with visitors able to enjoy events whether in the stadium or not.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s Cabinet has backed in a bid for the 2032 Olympic Games. Picture Supplied
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s Cabinet has backed in a bid for the 2032 Olympic Games. Picture Supplied

"I can see the river lined with people watching big screens all taking part in the fun and excitement of the Games," Ms Palaszczuk said.

"There's South Bank leading to West End which is connected to Roma Street via the Kurilpa Bridge with a new bridge under construction for the new Queen's Wharf development. There are City Cats offering even more options for transport.

"All of this is infrastructure we already have."

Games organisers are looking for transformational, legacy projects for bid cities that will be used long into the future under their "new norm" rules, rather than white-elephant projects that would be under-utilised after the Games.

They also want the host cities themselves to be the stars of the games, rather than interesting but costly and useless infrastructure.

Sport Minister and Minister Assisting the Premier on the Olympics Stirling Hinchliffe described The Gabba as "a workhorse, not a white elephant". "It's used on average for 40 weeks of the year with major sports played in summer and winter including international sport," he said.

Brisbane stadium designing firm Populous have provided concept designs for the possible upgrade, and director Chris Paterson said it was an opportunity to complement Brisbane's world-class rectangular Suncorp Stadium with a world-class round stadium.

The Gabba would join Cairns, Townsville, the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast as Games venue hosts, with 85 per cent already built.

The announcement comes after Australian Olympic Committee President John Coates spoke with state ministers at a Cabinet meeting in Brisbane yesterday, where the Cabinet officially endorsed the government position to support the 2032 Olympics. But Ms Palaszczuk said the endorsement was contingent on "guarantees" that need to be made by the federal government.

"I've already had a discussion with the Prime Minister," the Premier said.

"We'll be talking extensively about that over the coming weeks because we have very strict timelines that we need to meet.

"So we want to keep our preferred status there with the targeted dialogue."

Ms Palaszczuk talked up the Games bid, saying it gave Queenslanders hope for the future following the COVID-19 pandemic.

"As you can appreciate, we are basically doing years and months of work in a very short time frame to meet the deadlines that the IOC has set us," she said.

"It's a very exciting time for Queensland.

"So 2032, all the eyes of the world will be on us."

It's predicted that securing the Games would create more than 100,000 new jobs and priceless international tourism exposure, and install concrete deadlines for governments to build the roads and rail the growing southeast needs.

Brisbane was named by the International Olympic Committee as the preferred candidate to host the 2032 Olympic Games in February, opening up a "targeted dialogue" with Queensland's bid committee and the Australian Olympic Committee.

Queensland's bid, formally lodged in September 2019, could go to a vote as early as the Tokyo Olympics.


Originally published as IN PICTURES: Gabba to get $1bn Olympic-sized transformation