Game over for Gabba rebuild, premier turns to old venue

Keira Jenkins, Fraser Barton and Laine Clark |

A plan to rebuild the Gabba should be scrapped, a Brisbane 2032 Olympic infrastructure review says.
A plan to rebuild the Gabba should be scrapped, a Brisbane 2032 Olympic infrastructure review says.

A costly Gabba rebuild has officially been scrapped, with the Queensland premier to pursue a Brisbane Olympic project considered “very hard to justify”.

The Queensland government has accepted almost all of a 2032 Games infrastructure review‘s 30 recommendations, shelving the divisive Gabba reconstruction.

But Premier Steven Miles has not backed a key finding to build a world-class stadium in an inner-Brisbane park, instead opting to upgrade Suncorp Stadium and the 49-year-old Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre.

Suncorp Stadium general manager Alan Graham and Premier Steven Miles
Queensland Premier Steven Miles says the state cannot afford to rebuild the Gabba. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)

The 60-day review led by former lord mayor Graham Quirk recommended a $3.4 billion stadium be constructed at Victoria Park as the 2032 Games centrepiece.

It said the proposed 50,000 capacity stadium could be completed in three years and was a better legacy investment, having the potential to rival the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

But Mr Miles ruled it out, saying they would look at an upgraded Suncorp Stadium and QSAC to host the Brisbane Olympic drawcard events.

“When Queenslanders are struggling with housing and other costs, I cannot justify to them spending $3.4 billion on a new stadium,” he told reporters on Monday.

The premier said Suncorp Stadium was now set to host the opening and closing ceremonies with QSAC to be the track and field venue, despite the review’s warnings.

Built in 1975, QSAC was a 1982 Commonwealth Games venue.

The review found QSAC would require a $1.6 billion redevelopment but believed it would be “very hard to justify” and would not demonstrate value for money.

It claimed transport and access to QSAC – a 20-minute drive from Brisbane’s CBD – during the Games would be “extremely challenging and costly to facilitate”, recommending it not host Olympic track and field events.

Graham Quirk
A review headed by Graham Quirk recommended a $3.4 billion stadium be constructed at Victoria Park. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)

But Mr Miles backed calls by International Olympic Committee vice-president John Coates for a QSAC revamp, saying the government had been working on the plan for weeks.

“We will upgrade the Queensland sport and athletics complex to be the nation’s best athletics facility,” he said.

“I know the review rejected that option on the basis of the Olympic access costs – the IOC has committed to me that they will work with us to minimise those requirements.”

Depending on the QSAC revamp, Mr Miles said about $1 billion would be spent on upgrades to Suncorp Stadium and a “modest enhancement” of the Gabba.

Mr Miles ordered the review in December after taking over as premier following backlash over a proposed Gabba rebuild, initially estimated to cost $2.7 billion.

The review on Monday revealed a Gabba redevelopment would likely blow out to almost $3.4 billion.

The 42,000 capacity Gabba, first built in 1895 and revamped in 1995, was in “poor condition” and nearing the end of its design life, the review said.

It recommended that when an alternative stadium became available the Gabba should be demolished and the site repurposed.

“The Gabba will reach the end of its life by 2030,” Mr Quirk told reporters on Monday.

Artist's impression of a redeveloped Gabba
A number of artist impressions were produced for the possible redevelopment of the Gabba. (HANDOUT/QUEENSLAND GOVERNMENT)

“Even if you keep it going beyond that date with some upgrades at some stage the Gabba is going to need to be replaced and it is never going to be a tier one stadium because of the limitation of space.”

Mr Miles confirmed the Gabba would instead receive some “enhancement” but AFL and cricket would not be displaced and the nearby East Brisbane State School wouldn’t be vacated.

“The iconic Gabba will always be a stadium,” he said.

The premier did back a key review recommendation to relocate the proposed $2.5 billion Brisbane Arena, which is set to host the Olympic swimming.

The 15,000-seat venue was initially set to be built over inner-city Roma Street rail lines, but the cost looked set to blow out to more than $4 billion.

Instead, the review recommends Brisbane Arena be relocated to a nearby council depot site to the north of Roma Street Parklands.