Ballymore to become $25m home of Wallabies
Ballymore will be the home of the Wallabies under a $25 million re-development plan that includes a new Australian National Rugby Academy at the stadium.
The move will establish the 12.7ha facility in Brisbane's inner north as the undisputed headquarters of Australian rugby union and could transform the fortunes of the struggling Queensland Reds state team.
Queensland Rugby Union chairman Peter Lewis believes the state team could now attract some of the best players in the world.
"This turns Ballymore from a pretty severe liability into a wonderful asset," he said.
"It turns it into a cash-flow positive which will obviously help our financial liabilities.
"It makes us the most attractive destination for the players and I think it will help us attract the best players for the Reds.
"And it gives rugby in the state a real shot in the arm."
The academy will provide world-class facilities to help develop and prepare elite and emerging rugby union players, coaches and referees.
Plans show it will feature a public gym and an elite sports gym, a 50m training pool and a covered training area.
It also will have a sports medical centre, a rugby hall of fame, a conference centre, club and restaurant and an athletes' village.
Work is expected to start within six months, to be completed by the end of 2009.
Prime Minister John Howard, who announced the plan at Ballymore yesterday, said rugby union needed "a central focus".
"I believe that the contribution of this $25 million towards the building of this academy will provide it," he said.
Mr Howard said the academy would also become a centre for excellence for the Asia-Pacific area, providing assistance for fledgling rugby bodies in the region.
Other codes such as Australian rules and rugby league would use the facility.
Australian Rugby Union CEO and managing director John O'Neill said he held discussions on the future of Ballymore while still working for soccer's Football Federation of Australia.
"I'm not sure if my previous employers would be happy to hear this but I met with Peter Lewis more than 12 months ago to talk about the Ballymore vision," he said.
"This is a community asset, not just a rugby asset. Queensland is an incredibly important rugby state and to have our national academy here in Brisbane is just fantastic.
"Ballymore is an existing rugby asset. If you go around Australia, rugby doesn't have anything like this anywhere.
"In the other states we are largely a renter, a tenant, not an owner.
"When you looked at this, this is already in rugby's hands with the scope for improvement; this just was a no-brainer."
Queensland Reds prop Rodney Blake also welcomed the news.
"This will make it possible to do all our training and preparation in one place. We definitely need it," he said.