A top secret report outlining a major revamp for the Gabba has been inadvertently released to the ABC under a right to information request, before it was sent to Queensland Cabinet for approval.
The ABC obtained the long-overdue renovation plans for Queensland’s historic sports stadium, which were drawn up in 2017, with the government realising the error only when it was contacted for comment.
The consideration of what to do with the Gabba was given fresh impetus after the humiliating loss of the first Test match of the summer to Perth.
Inside the Gabba, the current viewing experience can be hum-drum and lacking comfort, compared with the sparkling new venues in Adelaide and Perth.
Cricket Australia spokesman James Sutherland said last month the Gabba has “slipped down the rankings a little”.
The sparkling changes include a sprawling and elevated plaza entry, huge new scoreboards, six new gates, parkland that flows to a new train station and a state-of-the-art “media halo” projecting above spectators’ heads.
‘No sense of arrival’
The architects behind the report say one of the key problems with the Gabba is there is “no sense of arrival — no defined front door”.
To address that, the western end would be revamped as the major entry point, with an elevated podium hugging the entire western side of the stadium at level three.
Pedestrian bridges over Vulture and Stanley streets would funnel spectators to six new gates with big screens positioned at key points.
A huge lighting display would cover the wall of the stadium and could be changed depending on the game, ceremony or event that was happening.
Why the western side? The majority of fans already arrive from that direction and it would also work in with the new Cross River Rail station that is planned for completion in 2024.
‘Limited meeting and dwell spaces’
The master plan also noted there were few places outside the stadium for people to meet before games and getting into the Gabba could “be a stressful time”.
“The south-western grassed park area is the only significant gathering point outside the stadium,” the plan said.
“The other three main entrances are essentially on the street.”
The solution is a massive park sprawling across Main Street all the way to the Cross River Rail station.
As people approach the gates, it was hoped a sense of anticipation would build with clear lines of sight into the stadium and big screens above the entry points.
Atmosphere, atmosphere, atmosphere
Inside the Gabba, some of the key ideas include new 16-metre-by-9-metre videoboards at each end, suspended above a premium standing area, a major upgrade to corporate boxes and function rooms to increase revenue during games and outside game days, and “the media halo”.
“The media halo is a combination of digital projection and lighting that transforms the underside of the roof into one 360-degree screen,” the plan said.
“All these elements will add to raising the atmosphere and the experience of the Gabba.”
The report put to Stadiums Queensland, custodian of the Gabba, noted the pressure Queensland was under to upgrade its facilities.
“In the past five to seven years, every major oval stadium across Australia has undergone significant upgrade, redevelopment or replacement,” the report said.
“This will maintain and elevate the Gabba’s status as one of the best sports venues in Australia and a local community asset.
How much and how far off?
The master plan omits one key element: price.
And despite the Gabba already being under fire for not measuring up to other stadiums, it also had a long view of when the work could be completed, citing the development would happen over next 15 to 20 years.
The vision and plan was put together by Populous, the architects behind London’s Wembley and Olympic Stadiums, Miami’s Marlins Park, Tennyson Tennis Centre and Melbourne’s Margaret Court Arena.