Perth's famous WACA ground has been formally relegated to the rear ranks of Australian cricket venues after the state association confirmed state government funding worth A$30 million to complete a conversion of the ground to a boutique venue and training base akin to Allan Border Field in Brisbane and Junction Oval in Melbourne.
The "new" WACA's capacity of 10,000 all but secures the multi-purpose Perth Stadium on the other side of the Swan River as Western Australia's only international venue except in the most exceptional of circumstances. The WACA's chief executive Christian Matthews recently pointed out that even this year's scheduled Test match against Afghanistan - currently clouded by uncertainty due to the announcement of the rescheduled IPL - is contracted to be played at the stadium.
The state government funding, to be matched by A$30 million from the federal government with Cricket Australia contributing A$4 million and the WACA A$10 million, will allow demolition and construction work to begin by the end of the year as part of plans to turn the precinct into a training base for WA's state, WBBL and BBL teams, plus a venue for state league football.
"The WACA ground is a world-renowned and much-loved cultural icon and now we can ensure that cricket lovers and the whole WA community can continue to make cherished memories at the WACA Ground," Matthews said. "This funding commitment will allow the WACA ground to become the community and sporting hub we always knew it could be."
The WACA's chairman Tuck Waldron said that the association would be seeking corporate and philanthropic contributions to raise A$10 million. "It's a great day for cricket in WA, and this funding will go a long way in helping us bring our vision for the iconic venue to life through the WACA Ground Improvement Project," Waldron said.
"We are now one step closer to transforming the much-loved WACA ground into a high-quality venue not only for cricket and other sports but entertainment and community events too, which will help energise the east Perth area.
"We are committed to raising the remaining $10 million through the WA Cricket Foundation to ensure this development offers incredible experiences and creates long-lasting memories for the WA community into the future."
The WACA's recent unhappy history has been beset by complaints about its faded and outmoded facilities and debate over whether or not it should be maintained as an international cricket venue. A previous plan to upgrade the ground and help fund it by building and selling apartments built into the WACA collapsed in 2013.
Dennis Lillee, once Australia's leading Test wicket-taker and a legendary figure in Perth, quit from his role as the WACA president in 2015 because he didn't want to see the ground go the way of other boutique venues that are used primarily as training bases for sporting clubs, while major fixtures are played at homogenous multipurpose stadiums.
CA's interim chief executive Nick Hockley said the governing body welcomed state government funding for the WACA's conversion. "This announcement is a significant moment for cricket in Western Australia and on behalf of Cricket Australia I would like to thank the state government for their support," he said.
"This project is critically important to the future success of WA and Australian cricket, and we thank Premier McGowan, Minster Murray and their state colleagues for their commitment to our sport and for sharing our vision to transform this historic ground."