It’s SimCity Time!

by John Kingsmill


In the current SimCity Adelaide Stadium Debate, I hope that the Advertiser’s report of State Treasurer Kevin Foley’s plan to move AFL from AAMI Stadium to Victoria Park and to couple footy with car-racing was flippant.

I hope that Kevin Foley was only thinking aloud, exploring the last thing that someone said to him and that he wasn’t treating that idea as a serious one.

There’s no gain in coupling a winner with a winner – the most that can be expected in that circumstance is that both markets will be equally damaged. In any case, Victoria Park and the Adelaide Park Lands in general, provide a cooling space around the CBD, a critical form of insulation from the retained heat of inner-city buildings in South Australia’s increasingly sustained heatwaves.

Those empty spaces are as essential for car-dependent Adelaide as Central Park is for New York. If nothing is built in the Park Lands for the next thirty years, that, in itself, will be a good thing.

Football Park at West Lakes has been good for footy financially since 1973 but is not the answer for the next thirty years.

Two reasons.

This stadium will always be car-dependent. Once we get over the current global financial crisis, and Swine Flu, cities like Adelaide will have to cope with the post-petrol age. It’s not just a matter of building a light-rail system to West Lakes; we will still need sufficient rolling stock to carry 40,000 people to Football Park at 6pm on a Friday night without crippling the needs of the rest of the city.

AFL worked this out some years ago, abolishing Waverley and all the suburban footy venues, except Geelong, and consolidating ten clubs around the MCG and the Docklands, and an integrated public transport system.

Second reason.

Football Park fails because, apart from the barbecue brigades in the carpark, there is nothing that invites any of its patrons to hover in the suburb either before or after the game. There’s no main street, no great choice of pubs, clubs, cafes, bistros or restaurants that have become meeting points for patrons before or after the game.

It’s a dead cold drive-in, drive-out place; it’s a soulless, isolated, single-purpose stadium that, after 35 years, has failed to generate any warmth or any history around it.

It was a dead stadium from day one and it is just as dead today. In thirty years’ time, it will be a Soviet mausoleum. Pure function, no nostalgic fondness. And the tryhard AAMI TV confirms this every week, every year, telling us when to clap, what to feel, when to feel what we feel.

It was always a dud stadium and it is still a dud stadium. We tolerate it because the football is more important than the stadium.

Opposition Leader mark Hamilton-Smith’s plan to build an AFL-ready stadium on the North Terrace site that the State Government has allocated for a new hospital is as flippant as Foley’s Victoria Park kite.

Hamilton-Smith is attempting wedge politics here – using the institutional-change resentment of some elder RAH doctors as a leg-in to a footy issue, trying to add a roar to a squeak.

He knows in his heart that a state-of-the-art clean purpose-built new hospital is a once in a lifetime offer by any government that any opposition or, for that matter, any voter would be foolish to reject.

By attempting to link these two disparate issues, he’s wilfully pissing upwind. Others have succeeded using bad faith; he thinks the current political environment is so passive that he might too.

The AFL also muddied the waters last month, wanting all SA footy, Crows and Port, to be played at Adelaide Oval. It was galling to have another state tell us how to plan our city but, on the other hand, this was the first time in thirty years that the South Australian National Football League and the South Australian Cricket Association had to think about not hating each other.

SANFL are in the box seat; they own their property.

They don’t have to do anything until they want to.

SACA is not so endowed. They need more content before they will get the development dollars.

I’d like Adelaide Oval to stay as it is – a boutique cricket ground, with grassy knolls and its luxurious history. I’d like the City Council and the State Government to preserve it in mothballs, like the Park Lands, for as long as it can, maybe for another thirty years.

Adelaide Oval doesn’t have to be developed; it has to be preserved.

One day, a use other than cricket will become apparent. On that day, we will be glad that we held onto it.

Meanwhile, the Wayville Showgrounds has outgrown its traditional role of the presentation of country produce to the city markets.

The state’s economic history has shifted sufficiently to allow the Wayville Showgrounds to become something else entirely – every month of the year. Maybe, as well as Show Week and the Sunday growers’ market, and the weekly trade fairs, maybe this vast acreage could also house an AFL Stadium, a soccer stadium, an international swimming pool, squash courts, volleyball courts, bowling greens, athletic tracks, gymnasiums, archery tunnels… and the rest of it.

It could become a sportsvillage, and a performing arts centre, and a trade fair, and a showground all at the same time, on train, tram and bus lines, with vast parking spaces in the parklands, and surrounded by pubs, clubs, cafes and bistros in the charming village of Goodwood.

SANFL and Hindmarsh Stadium can realise their assets; all governments can consolidate their funding options and create a major thing of beauty and awe at Goodwood, not far from the CBD.

Thus, Adelaide Oval stays as it is; we get a new clean modern hospital on North Terrace; West Lakes and Hindmarsh gets some land release; horse racing remains as a boutique sport at Morphettville and the Park Lands become wetlands, an integral part of a new stormwater retention system and the car racing stays until petrol runs out.

That’s a plan.




  1. Peter Schumacher says

    I must admit that I have fond memories of going to the footy at Adelaide Oval though, and it would have the advantage of being close to all of the facilities that aren’t at Footy Park. Besides the place has a heart, has a soul. And it’s easy to get to.

  2. John Kingsmill says

    Yes, Peter. All of us over fifty have fond memories of footy at Adelaide Oval when it was the home of SANFL. As a a boarder in an inner suburb college from the age at the age of 12 or so, I walked through Botanic Park, along the Torrens to Adelaide Oval as thousands of people streamed down King William Street from the railway station.
    The viewing area was magical – close to the fence or up on the grassy mound under the moreton bay figs… the winter sun streamed over the ground in the second half, making the grass glow gold…
    At finals, it was standing room only plus spme… sometimes a few hundred kids would be allowed to sit inside the fence on the ground.

    But to make this into a modern AFL venue capable seating 50,000 would kill; the charm of the place. It would destroy it as one of the most picturesque cricket venues in the world. Or rsather, it would destroy the soul of the place, that you write about.

    The grassy areas would go; the old stands would go. The sightlines of the hills, city form and cathedral would be lost.

    This week there was some talk of the Western Bulldogs thinking of playing some home games at Adelaide Oval next year. Great! I hope this happens. It would be a perfect venue for AFL footy for about 25,000 people and, for all those sick to death of the Crows and Power hype at AAMI, there might be a market for a third type of AFL footy experience in Adelaide.

    I’d go, as well as going to the AAMI games. It might bite into the current SANFL market but, sometimes, something has to give.

Leave a Comment