Australian Turnstiles – December 4, 2017
Metricon Stadium Transforms for Commonwealth Games
Now that the AFL season is well and truly over, Metricon Stadium, home of the Gold Coast Suns, is being transformed in readiness for next year’s Commonwealth Games. The stadium will act as the main stadium and track and field venue for the XXI Games. While it no longer has the appeal it once had, the Commonwealth Games are still a drawing card, particularly for those sports that are not in the Olympic program (such as lawn bowls and netball). This will be the fifth occasion Australia has been the host country with the Gold Coast following on from Sydney 1938, Perth 1962, Brisbane 1982, and Melbourne 2006. The stadium will have a synthetic running track installed and have an additional 10,000 seats temporarily added, taking the capacity up to 35,000.
Originally known as Carrara Oval, Metricon Stadium has a unique and interesting history despite humble beginnings as a local rugby ground. Substantial redevelopment was undertaken which allowed the newly formed Brisbane Bears to enter the AFL in 1987. Ironically the first game the Bears played was against the Fitzroy Lions, with whom they would merge with 10 years later to become the Brisbane Lions (now based at the ‘Gabba). The second iteration of the Gold Coast NRL team was also based at Carrara, doing so for the three years they were known as the Chargers. The first version of the National Rugby Championship (NRC) in 2007 had a team known as the East Coast Aces, also playing out of Metricon Stadium.
Lastly, an Australian Baseball League (ABL) franchise known as the Gold Coast Clippers / Daikyo Dolphins / East Coast Cougars / Gold Coast Cougars intermittently played here between 1989-1999. With this is mind, it was intriguing to note the Baseball Australia CEO, Cam Vale, identify the Gold Coast as a key expansion market in the press this week, despite the region regularly being described as a graveyard for sports franchises. Vale has suggested several options for a Gold Coast team, although it seems clear outside investment from overseas, probably Asia, would be necessary to make this idea more than a thought bubble.
Sydney Stadium Splurge Slammed
The Sydney stadium saga continues… Just days after announcing details of a $2 billion spend to knock down and rebuild ANZ Stadium at Olympic Park and Allianz Stadium at Moore Park, an online petition calling on the NSW State Government to scrap the plan has garnered over 67,000 signatures in just 48 hours. The petition was started by former Australia Rugby Union player, now journalist and prolific tweeter, Peter FitzSimons (@Peter_Fitz). Sports Minister Stuart Ayres has defended the proposal, declaring Sydney’s major stadiums now rank last when compared to the rest of the country, therefore risking investment and jobs that accompany major sporting events.
So, who is right in this argument? Well, as usual, the answer lies somewhere in the middle.
There is no doubt that while serviceable, both stadiums could use substantial improvements. Certainly, neither of the two stadiums in question could be classed as modern, state-of-the-art facilities.
Allianz sits on a narrow parcel of land and thus has little room to accommodate the necessary ancillary facilities to accompany a seating bowl that is well regarded amongst the sporting world. The stadium is seriously lacking in bathrooms (especially for women), food and beverage service points, has limited disability seating areas, and suffers from poor emergency egress accessibility. As it was built in 1988, it does not contain any of the bells and whistles boasted by most new stadia.
ANZ on the other hand, has suffered from poor decision-making post 2000 Olympics. Unfortunately, as a multi-purpose venue, designed to host both rectangular and oval playing surface sports, the former Olympic stadium delivers a below-average experience for all. Perhaps those responsible for legacy planning should have taken their cue from the US, which was at the time starting to move away from multipurpose stadiums used for both baseball and NFL football, and towards bespoke boutique venue that delivered a true all-round entertainment experience.
As to providing benefits to the community and the taxpayer, again, the answer is in the middle. Stadium proponents point to the state budget, and note that the $2B spend is only 1% of the corresponding health and education expenditure during the same period. That might be true, but it’s a double-edged sword in that most academic studies show that the net growth in economic development due to sports stadiums is also only 0-1%.
However, the one truth being spouted in this melee, is “build it and they will come.” There is a so-called honeymoon period following the opening of a new stadium, with some studies showing increases in attendance can last for 6-10 years even when allowing for fluctuations in home team performance. Hosting professional sport and major events can deliver intangible social benefits to a city, although this is best looked through a holistic lens also encompassing the arts, culture, and entertainment.
In conclusion, the community are right to question $2B of public money being spent on sporting stadiums. However, the stadiums in question undoubtedly require investment to bring them up to acceptable modern standards.
Price Hike at Canberra United W-League
Fans of W-League soccer (football) team Canberra United have been left wondering what they’ve done wrong, with admission prices jumping by up to 170% from last year. McKellar Park is now the most expensive venue in the W-League. Tickets last season were sold entirely as general admission, costing $10. Seating in the grandstand is now $27, more than double the league average, while general admission is $22. Small discounts are available for pre-purchasing online.
Canberra are the only women’s team in the W-League not affiliated with an A-League team, and player costs have jumped significantly this season. United have been one of the most successful teams in the league which was established in 2008. Australia’s national capital is also home to the Canberra Capitals (Women’s National Basketball League) and Canberra Cavalry (Australian Baseball League), both of whom have similar pricing structures to Canberra United.
Record Crowd in Adelaide at Ashes Cricket
As we predicted, record crowds are flocking to the cricket this summer. A total of 55,317 attended the first day of the Second Ashes Test between Australia and England at the Adelaide Oval, a record sporting crowd at the redeveloped stadium. The previous record was 54,468 set at the 2015 “Showdown,” the derby between AFL cross-town rivals; the Adelaide Crows and the Port Adelaide Power. While this is the third year in a row that the Adelaide test match has been played as a day-night fixture, it is the first ever Men’s Ashes day-nighter.
Possible Day-Night Test in Brisbane Next Year
Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland has left open the possibility of day-night test cricket returning to Brisbane next summer. Last year both Adelaide and Brisbane hosted a day-night match, but only the Adelaide test is under lights this summer. Speaking on ABC Radio, Sutherland keenly explored the various scheduling opportunities for next summer, with six tests to be played; Australia will face India in four games, followed by Sri Lanka for a further two tests. He noted that as the host country, Australia would have a large say in next summer’s program. Cricket Australia and Sutherland have long been advocates for day-night test cricket.
Manly Sea Eagles to Spread Their Wings in USA
Leading NRL rugby league club, the Manly Sea Eagles, are eyeing off potential business interests in the United States. Based on Sydney’s northern beaches, Manly have publicly stated their interest in becoming involved with a possible New York franchise in the European Super League. The Sea Eagles are one of only a handful of professional sports teams in Australia that are privately owned and play out of the dilapidated Brookvale Oval, currently known as “Lottoland” – surely one of the worst sponsorship stadium names ever.
Rugby league is increasing in popularity in North America, albeit at a much smaller level than its sporting cousin, rugby union. The Toronto Wolfpack entered the British Rugby League 1 in 2017 and immediately won promotion to The Championship, only one tier down from the Super League. Rumours of a New York franchise emerged in October with reports confirming a business plan had been submitted to the English Rugby Football League, with a proposed start date of 2019. The consortium has already secured $12 million of investment to commence operations, and would play their home games at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey.
USA and Canada will jointly host the 2025 Rugby League World Cup, with those involved in the sport keen to raise local interest in the lead up to the tournament. One such promotional opportunity is the mooted international between England and New Zealand, which if the rumours are true would take place on the weekend of June 23-24 in Denver, Colorado.
ABL All Star Game Headed to Melbourne
The Australian Baseball League (ABL) All Star Game is once again headed to Melbourne. The midsummer classic between Team Australia and the World All Stars. will be held at the Melbourne Ballpark on Thursday December 21st.