Australian Turnstiles – January 23, 2018
The Heat Is On
How hot is too hot? That seems to be the question being asked given the soaring temperatures that occurred during the Fifth Ashes Cricket Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground and during the Australian Open Tennis at Melbourne Park. Day 4 of the Sydney Test saw temperatures exceed 41°C (105°F), although as official temperature recordings are always taken in the shade it was much hotter on the field. Various media organisations and experts used “black globe” thermometers to show temperatures upwards of 57°C (134°). Black globe considers the heat of the sun, with other sophisticated methods also able to take humidity into consideration – “wet bulb”.
While the cricket continued unabated, with the English players in the field visibly suffering, organisers of the Sydney International Tennis tournament suspended play. The extreme heat has also affected Melbourne with the first week of the Australian Open recording similar temperatures as those experienced in Sydney. However, with the humidity relatively low, the extreme heat policy was not implemented. Despite this, many players obviously struggled with the conditions, and several subsequently called for the threshold to be lowered.
Various experts and armchair critics have been quick to raise the issue of player and spectator safety related to heat. A health and safety expert went so far as to recommend the Australian Open be moved from its traditional January timeslot unless the Melbourne Park facility is upgraded with various climate moderating mechanisms.
While Melbourne Park boasts three courts with retractable roofs, this is relatively unusual in Australia – playing sport outdoors in the summer sun is as Australian as it gets. However, Australia has generally proved to be behind the trends when it comes to stadium design. For example, the US has realised the benefit of retractable roofs to combat summer heat and humidity, as well as inclement winter weather. Last year we visited numerous baseball stadiums in the States including Minute Maid Park in Houston – a beautiful building with a retractable roof that is most welcome during the height of summer in Texas. As the official review states, “It mixes the retro look that reflects baseball’s golden age with all the technology, comfort, and convenience of the 21st century.”
So, are we going to see test cricket played indoors in the future? The reality is that it is highly unlikely. There is currently only one cricket venue in Australia with a retractable roof; Etihad Stadium in Melbourne – and it is not a regular cricket stadium, apart from the Melbourne Renegades in the BBL. Instead, as more stadiums around the country undergo renovations in coming years we will see more consideration given to player and spectator comfort such as adequate coverage from the elements, passive cooling and air movement, and water spray misting stations.
Hisense Arena Name Change Imminent
The Victorian State Government is looking to buy the naming rights to Melbourne Park’s second biggest tennis stadium, Hisense Arena. The arena has a capacity of 10,000 and is owned and operated by the Melbourne and Olympic Park Trust. The agreement with electronics firm Hisense ended six months ago, yet in the absence of a new deal their branding remains. Online sources predict the government could opt for a name such as Melbourne Arena. A sponsorship deal is likely to cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars and is a move the opposition parties strongly reject. Optus reportedly paid over $50m for the naming rights to the about-to-open new Perth Stadium.
Records Set to Tumble for Fremantle AFLW at Optus Stadium
Pundits are already predicting records will be smashed when the first AFL match will be played at the new Optus Stadium in Perth on February 10th. More than 30,000 are expected to attend the women’s clash between Fremantle and Collingwood. The all-time record for a women’s sporting event is 41,000, when a women’s charity football match took place at the Adelaide Oval. The current AFLW record is just over 25,000.
The $1.5 billion stadium faces its first major test this weekend when Australia and England do battle in a cricket one-day international. It appears transport will be the only potential hiccup with cars and ride share services not permitted due to limited access roads. Up to 83% of attendees are expected to use trains or buses to access the stadium.
Is the AFL Grand Final Moving to Perth?
Meanwhile, West Australian state Premier, Mark McGowan, has this week called on the AFL to stage the Grand Final at the new stadium. Predictably, he has been largely ridiculed for having the audacity to suggest such a move. The AFL Grand Final is an institution in itself, and has been staged at the Melbourne Cricket Ground every year since 1902, excluding four years during World War II when the ‘G was requisitioned for military use, and 1991 when the new Great Southern Stand was being constructed. The chances of the AFL Grand Final being moved from Melbourne are miniscule at best.
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