The Ashes 2013-14, 2nd Test, Adelaide

Adelaide Oval's mixed future

For so many years a cricket ground, the home of Bradman, Chappell and Hookes has become a stadium after $500m redevelopment

Daniel Brettig in Adelaide

December 1, 2013

Comments: 34 | Text size: A | A

Work continues on the pedestrian bridge over the River Torrens, Adelaide Oval, November 2, 2013
The rocky road to Adelaide Oval: work continues on the pedestrian bridge over the River Torrens © ESPNcricinfo Ltd
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From the right seats, at the right angle, St Peter's Cathedral is still visible beyond the Moreton Bay Figs. Once in plain sight to all, that evocative spire can no longer be seen by the vast majority of the thousands who will descend this week upon Adelaide Oval. For so many years a cricket ground, the home of Bradman, Chappell and Hookes has become a stadium.

A redevelopment to cater for football cost more than A$500m (US$456m) in government funding and has almost completely recast Adelaide's previously genteel ambience. Cathedral views have been obscured by a temple at which the denizens of many sports - and lovers of stadium rock shows - will henceforth indulge in their rowdier forms of worship.

As Ricky Ponting put it, "cricket is just a small part of what these entertainment complexes have to offer", and Ashes visitors will duly be greeted by the sight of construction work timed to be complete by the start of the 2014 AFL season. The southern stand is more or less complete and will play host to the annual Test match dinner, while spectators will be catered for in the bottom tier of the eastern structure. Over the River Torrens, the not-quite-complete pedestrian bridge will be opened for partial use on Thursday morning.

The green mounds that once accommodated the majority of Adelaide's crowds have now been reduced to a single strip across the back of the northern end, leaving the venerable scoreboard as a final link to the past. While the source of information on tallies of runs and wickets remains unchanged, it will be the only familiar sensation to greet players in the middle, for even the ground beneath their feet has been vigorously overturned.

Nothing symbolises the marriage of convenience between cricket, football and state government desires for a vibrant all-year precinct on the banks of the River Torrens quite like the arrival of drop-in pitches, an AFL stipulation that overruled years of the two games co-existing at the ground. Straw-coloured and set to dry further before the match begins on Thursday morning, it is a variable that not even the South Australian Cricket Association (SACA) custodians can be entirely sure of.

Rolling Stones to Shield final in three easy steps

  • On the day South Australia leapt to the top of the Sheffield Shield table with an outright victory over Victoria at the MCG, the SACA chief executive Keith Bradshaw revealed the ground can still accommodate the final despite hosting both the Rolling Stones and an AFL fixture only days before.
  • The performance of the ageing English rock band - among whom their frontman Mick Jagger is a noted cricket follower - has been billed as a celebration of the new AFL-friendly ground, but Bradshaw said he wanted to prove the game had not been entirely shunted from the front rank itself.
  • "We can still play the Shield final. I've had chats with Cricket Australia about that," he said. "The Stones will come in, play their concert, we bump out the stage, we bump out all the infrastructure for them, then we play the first Showdown [between Adelaide and Port Adelaide].
  • "We can then bump out one of the football trays, bring in a pitch, take down the goalposts, play a game of cricket, then get it in and play footy the next weekend. It's a logistical challenge I would love to have and I'm feeling quite positive about the way the Redbacks are performing at the moment … I'm really optimistic that will happen."

"It'll be very interesting to see how the pitch deteriorates over the five days," Keith Bradshaw, the SACA chief executive, told ESPNcricinfo. "The first two matches it probably hasn't deteriorated quite to the level it has in the past. The second game it did break up a little more than the first. I think [curator] Damian Hough is becoming more familiar now with what he's dealing with. I'd expect to see a traditional Adelaide pitch for this Test match.

"There's been a huge effort made to ensure that we maintained the character of the way the game's played and has always been played at Adelaide Oval, and in terms of the surface that we're playing on we had a few issues when it was re-laid but we've overcome that now. You can have the best facilities and stands and hospitality in the world, but if the surface isn't world-class as well, then the quality of the product is compromised, so that's a very important part of what we've done."

Bradshaw knows a thing or two about marrying past, present and future, having been a popular and visionary overseer of Lord's during his time as chief executive of the MCC. He arrived at the SACA after the decision to redevelop it for wider use had been reached, but has watched approvingly as the stands have risen up in a manner he thinks has retained as much character as possible.

"Part of the beauty of Adelaide Oval is the design has kept the ambience of what it meant to come here to watch cricket," he said. "Now it is catered for football as well, but the fact you have that northern mound, the historic scoreboard, the Moreton Bay figs, the Cathedral in the background and the stands themselves as individual stands, that adds to the character of the ground.

"The facilities are second to none in the world I believe. There is an aura about what's being implemented, and we need to recognise too that no ground can stay still. It will really form quite a cathedral feeling, while the structures are a lot larger there is still a degree of intimacy, which I think is really important."

Irrespective of the aura created by the construction of the new stands and the uncertainty brought by the early days of the drop-in pitch, it is ultimately the cricketers themselves who will build Adelaide's new reputation. The manner of their play will have an impact, but so too the plain-spoken words they will utter about the way the stadium has been put together.

George Bailey has made plenty of runs in Adelaide for Tasmania down the years, and he spoke enthusiastically of his first experience training in the middle of a ground now ringed with stands where once it had been garlanded with mounds, terraces and marquees. But he had one wry objection. "Those red seats behind the bowler's arm," Bailey quipped. "Whoever's come up with that is a genius. I'm sure it'll be good for the Adelaide Crows…"

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by   on (December 3, 2013, 22:58 GMT)

@JimDavis, have you looked at the Shield ladder in the last couple of days? The Redbacks are sitting SECOND - second to TOP, not bottom! They're only 2 points behind NSW so they are more than just a mathematical chance of finishing first. Credit where credit is due, the Redbacks aren't the basket case of the past. The AFL has much less control over AO than over the MCG and with only one game per weekend at the ground there is definately a possibility of playing the shield final - 8 hours to drop in and remove the pitch, and 5 days play fits neatly into the 7-day window they'll have. This is a multi-purpose venue after all.

Posted by JimDavis on (December 3, 2013, 18:13 GMT)

@GregHowe. You left out the biggest and most obvious problem with Keith Bradshaw's plan for the Shield Final at the Adelaide Football Stadium. SA needs to finish on top of the Shield table first and that just isn't going to happen.

Posted by anton1234 on (December 3, 2013, 12:28 GMT)

Chechong0114,

What are you talking about? Most Australians care deeply about the ongoing Ashes series. In England during the Ashes (the UK Ashes series just gone) we had big TV, radio, web traffic from the UK around that series. Lot of people do care both in the UK and especially in Australia, where cricket is probably the only truly national sport.

Posted by Cyril_Knight on (December 3, 2013, 10:14 GMT)

It's down to the fans to ensure that the character of the ground remains. Lord's has managed this, despite the massive redevelopments that have taken place there, as has the MCG. Buildings don't speak and sing and drink, the people provide the history and the unique atmospheres found at every single ground. Adelaide can still be a special place for cricket, the new facilities look superb. But if the increased capacity changes the type of people who attend (more corporate etc) then the specialness could be lost.

Posted by Front-Foot-Clunge on (December 3, 2013, 8:30 GMT)

Hmmm, this worries me a little. The AFL & CA have an interesting relationship over the MCG - so much so that the AFL suggested in recent times that if Victoria topped the Shield, perhaps they would like to play the final at Punt Road so as not to eat into preparation for the AFL season! Maybe it won't be a huge issue...it doesn't seem to cause any issues in Sydney or Brisbane (although they are moreso rugby cities), and Adelaide Oval doesn't have that special place in the heart of AFL fans like the MCG. I'm sure I had a point, but I seem to have talked myself out of it. Er, carry on!

Posted by GregHowe on (December 3, 2013, 5:58 GMT)

There are two problems with Keith Bradshaw's plan for the Shield Final at the Adelaide Football Stadium (formerly Adelaide Oval). The first is that the Shield Final is programmed to run between 21-25 March, and the Rolling Stones concert is on 22 March! So unless CA agree to postpone the Final - and how could they, probably not knowing until the last day of the season who will host it - this is impossible. The other problem (and this will be the case in future years of course) is that pursuant to the ground sharing agreement cricket's occupancy of the Stadium concludes absolutely on 15 March every year, and the Shield Final is played toward the end of March. So for this grand plan to have any chance of coming to pass, either this season or in future years, it would require the football interests to surrender control of the ground for the five days of the final (plus a few days either side to get the drop-in pitch back into the ground and then out again). Good luck with that!

Posted by valvolux on (December 3, 2013, 5:57 GMT)

Fact is its difficult for these grounds to survive unless they serve multiple sports. Dam Adelaide looks ugly now, but it had to happen. The drop in pitches dont always mean dull batting fests, the MCG has been kind to bowlers at times on drop ins. The biggest concern for me is the WACA - it bleeds money which is such a shame because its pace and bounce is iconic for Australian cricket. There was a day when waca members were treated to afl, rugby, soccer and baseball all in the one season. Now its just cricket and they just can't make a buck. The cost of a membership has gone through the roof and for ashes series, you have to lineup at 5am every morning to get a seat that spends half the day in the 45 degree sun. Next year we dont even get a test. When the new Perth stadium is finished the waca is history - Perth stadium will get the drop in pitches and oz loses a massive advantage.

Posted by chicko1983 on (December 3, 2013, 5:11 GMT)

@RandyOZ: are you from Radelaide too? Awesome!

Posted by LoungeChairCritic on (December 3, 2013, 4:40 GMT)

The redeveloped stadium is great for Adelaide and all South Australians. It will change the face of the city. From March to September there will be between 30,000 to 55,000 people weekly attending either a Crows or Port game. If you are going to get 500 million of federal government money to redevelop a stadium you can't just rely on the income derived from cricket. Essentially cricket fans will be riding the juggernaut of the AFL. A redeveloped Adelaide Oval represents a win for all the parties concerned. As a proud West Australian, it is only a matter of time before you will watch an Ashes Test at the proposed Burswood Stadium (60,000 stadium with capacity to go to 70,000). Although it will be sad not to play on the WACA due to its unique characteristic, the game in the West needs to remain relevant to the general public. The sporting landscape like in most places in Australia is extremely competitive.

Posted by Meety on (December 3, 2013, 1:27 GMT)

Proof is in the pudding, if the pitch is dull, cricket in Oz will be poorer for it. The decision was made by a majority of members, so they'll get what they asked for. On the other hand - if they get pitch right, then the potential for Adelaide to host bigger cricket matches is increased. That however, does come with an aesthetic cost that is incalculatable!

Posted by Scuderi on (December 3, 2013, 1:19 GMT)

All the opposition to the upgrade comes from members that already had comfortable seats undercover, and media people that watch the game from an air-conditioned box.

They dont care if the general public are required to sit in full sun in uncomfortable seating with a poor view of the game, as long as their precious view is protected.

Posted by   on (December 3, 2013, 0:46 GMT)

@BRUTALANALYST what a stupid ignorant comment... Adelaide is sold out for the test match.. As is the MCG for the fourth test.. A stadium of 100,000 people... They all generally sell out every test every year.. And the bbl has great attendances... Your comment has no credit at all

Posted by Barnesy4444 on (December 3, 2013, 0:39 GMT)

The only way this helps cricket is the money football will be bringing to the SACA. The new stadium is good for football and the city as people will now go out and eat/drink after a game rather than simply go home.

Posted by jimmy787 on (December 3, 2013, 0:34 GMT)

Adelaide traditionally has been the most beautiful ground in Australia. Open spaces, the historic cathedral in the background, the old scoreboard. Probably the best outfield of all the Australian grounds. I spent many days there watching cricket as a child - both domestic and international matches. Can't imagine a more picturesque place to spend the day, although I believe Newlands in Cape Town would come close.

I haven't seen the new re-modeled Adelaide Oval yet, but I sincerely hope it doesn't lose its unique character.

Posted by ze_wolf on (December 2, 2013, 23:53 GMT)

Cathedral view... gone. The hill... gone. The pitch... gone. The shape of the playing surface now resembles a subcontinental postage stamp rather than the long elegant boundaries of the past. They should change the name of the ground. That abomination is no longer the Adelaide Oval.

Posted by chechong0114 on (December 2, 2013, 22:55 GMT)

Everything about this story is great, the new look Adelaide Oval is a thing of absolute brilliance, except for the fact that all the enhancement that is being done to the stadium is in anticipation of the 2014 AFL series and barely any of it has anything to do with cricket. I am making an appeal to the ICC to put the busine$$ of cricket a priority and find ways to grow the fan base for this great sport. The sport's image is very poor and this is something that needs to be repaired. The game is exhausting too much time and energy on everything else except finding ways to sustain a consistent fan base and getting people into the grounds on game day to support their international superstars. What is the point of representing country when barely anyone in the country gives a squat. This Ashes series has started on an extreme high, the cricket has been absolutely passionate especially from the home team that is desperate to win the cup back. There should not be any empty seats at the ACG.

Posted by Chris_P on (December 2, 2013, 22:45 GMT)

@anton1234. Let me say from a personal viewpoint (as a cricket fan) it has been ruined. As an AFL fan, it is great for them to get a stadium of this standard, but it has shattered what was once one of prettiest grounds in world cricket. At least the scoreboard end is untouched.

Posted by RandyOZ on (December 2, 2013, 22:42 GMT)

@Little_Aussie_Battler clearly isn't from Adelaide. No one liked the AFL from West Lakes; it is no where near the city. This will reinvigorate the city and make the North Bank of the Torrens a true precinct, while maintaining the ambiance of Adelaide Oval. Well done SACA and SA Government

Posted by disco_bob on (December 2, 2013, 22:26 GMT)

Unfailingly every Ashes the commentary would always be about how 'pretty' and what a charming atmosphere it had. That's all gone now and there's no point pretending otherwise. However it will all be forgotten as long as a memorable cricket match takes place. Adelaide is one of those wickets that always looks like nailed on draw after two days but inevitably gets a result.

I fear that the public are being softened up to expect a draw and if that eventuates then it will stamp the redesign as a failure for cricket. On the other hand, it if produces as exciting a finish as 2006/7 then all will be forgiven.

Posted by Bonehead_maz on (December 2, 2013, 21:24 GMT)

I thought Australian rules football was invented by the Melbourne Cricket club to keep their players fit in off season. Harden up AFL .... your game has ALWAYS been played on cricket pitches !

Posted by   on (December 2, 2013, 20:21 GMT)

My very best wishes to Keith Bradshaw. I hope that all goes well for him and wish him well for the successful staging of the Test Match.

Posted by BRUTALANALYST on (December 2, 2013, 19:40 GMT)

The thing I hate about Australia is all these huge stadiums are always 3/4 empty for cricket even for their Big Bash league that is supposed to be a big hit the atmosphere is dead and stadiums mostly empty.

Posted by Barnesy4444 on (December 2, 2013, 19:00 GMT)

In my younger days if I had a day off from Uni I would go to Adelaide Oval to watch the Shield games. I would have the whole hill to myself. 10-15 years ago SACA actually put in retractable lights because they didn't want to damage the skyline of Adelaide!! Now look at it.

Adamtwittey, this stadium doesn't improve cricket at all. It actually diminishes it a lot. It's all football and money. The old oval could still fit in nearly 25 000 cricket fans which is plenty. The only games that would be sold out were the first couple of days of an Ashes test. You are obviously not from Adelaide, Football Park is 15 minutes away and seats 50 000.

Posted by anton1234 on (December 2, 2013, 18:36 GMT)

@Ben Williams,

I disagree. It was a golden opportunity to keep the Adelaide Skyline end ion instead of the hill end. If it was an average skyline p, I wouldn't care, but Adelaide has a very nice skyline and it would have been in view when the bowler from the current hill end run not bowl. A great skyline can engphance the look of a stadium, like the PNC Park of the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team. I would urge you to take a look at a picture of that stadium.

Also, isn't it amazing that they have pretty much rebuilt the whole ground at a cost of $500 and yet couldn't widen the short side boundaries

Posted by shillingsworth on (December 2, 2013, 17:22 GMT)

@adamtwittey - English cricket grounds have rarely shared facilities with other sports. It accordingly makes no sense to build a 50,000 seater stadium which will only sell out at best once every 4 years. The ticket prices are certainly too high but a decent seat at a test in Australia didn't look that cheap when I last checked.

Posted by milepost on (December 2, 2013, 16:48 GMT)

There's not much point having a ground that hosts a handful of games a year. We have to move with the times and multi purpose grounds are a decent idea.

Posted by Batmanian on (December 2, 2013, 13:54 GMT)

From a wider point of view, Adelaide was looking - through its obscurity, maybe, coupled with the always anticipated mining boom in Central Australia - like the one Australian city that could actually get things right. Keep the old, sleepy stuff, and be judicious about expansion and infrastructure.

It's always been Australia's third ground, behind the 'G and the SCG, but I think that claim has become a bit weaker by acceding to the stadium thing. In fact, you'd now say that the SCG has the architectural heritage thing sewn up, with its boutique capacity and lovely green roof. Adelaide doesn't have to be like everywhere else; I mean, it can't be, convincingly. Trying, implausibly, to be cutting edge seems silly. In twenty years, they're going to be left with a date-stamp folly attesting to their inadequacy in the time of trial. Let's hope the English grounds never do anything this dopey. and unimaginative.

Posted by   on (December 2, 2013, 12:38 GMT)

@Anton.. no mate, maybe you're not from Adelaide? the current hill is where the best atmosphere is :) that should never change, they've done the right thing, I see what you're getting at but you also fail to acknowledge they still have the old scoreboard which we don't want touched at all, so not an option!

Posted by lodd on (December 2, 2013, 12:21 GMT)

Many grounds now becoming 'Stadiums'........

Posted by RJHB on (December 2, 2013, 12:08 GMT)

There's been a push for a while to do the same thing to the Gabba pitch for AFL interests. After that brilliant first test, may it never ever EVER change!

Posted by anton1234 on (December 2, 2013, 12:03 GMT)

I wouldn't say it's been ruined at all. It has been enhanced. I have seen photos and videos of the new stadium and it looks great. The stands have been designed in a way that makes the crowd feel really close to the action; the design of the stands also give the feel of it almost being an indoor stadium, so looks great on TV and will enclose lot of the atmosphere in the ground.

My only reservation is that they've kept the wrong end of the ground open. I know they wanted to keep the old scoreboard end of the ground with the hill in tact, but they should have moved scoreboard to opposite end and developed a hill there. This was way the city skyline would have been in view.

Posted by adamtwittey on (December 2, 2013, 11:56 GMT)

It's very easy to rubbish the "ruining" of the Adelaide Oval. The upgrades were necessary and very Australian. We love our sport, and our big events and we want as many people as possible to see the spectacle. The completed upgrades will mean the Adelaide Oval can hold 53,500 spectators; the largest English cricket grounds can barely hold half of that! The "English way" of small, ornate grounds (in a comparatively huge population) means that much of the public can never access big international matches, due to poor ticket availability and ridiculous prices. Sure, the Adelaide Oval won't pack out every day of a test match, but it means for big events like the World Cup, plenty of tickets will be available. In a small city of 1.2 million people, having such a large, world-class, modern multipurpose stadium is terrific. Oh, and the ground looks fantastic.

Posted by Little_Aussie_Battler on (December 2, 2013, 11:46 GMT)

Thankyou to the SACA for chasing AFL the past decade and finally achieving that goal. AFL was quite content at West Lakes never forget that point nostalgics.

Posted by   on (December 2, 2013, 10:57 GMT)

Thankyou, Australian Rules Football. You have ruined one of the great cricket grounds of the world. Thankyou very, very much.

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Daniel BrettigClose
Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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