WACA wins turf war with Subiaco

Austadiums   |  Saturday 21st June 2003

The WA Cricket Association has staved off a State Government push to shift Test and one-day cricket to Subiaco Oval and interstate matches to Leederville Oval.

The WACA, which has gone out on a $12 million financial limb to redevelop its ground after the Government refused to duplicate facilities already in place at Subiaco Oval, will continue to host cricket for the foreseeable future.

Sports minister Alan Carpenter yesterday acknowledged the current WACA redevelopment had effectively ended any chance of cricket moving.

Cricket would have been played on drop-in pitches at the two football grounds under a government proposal to rationalise sport at Perth's two major stadiums.

"The opportunity to have international cricket matches played at Subiaco Oval was there, but since the decision was made to upgrade the WACA, that time has passed and it is most unlikely it will come back," Carpenter said yesterday.

"The WACA has spent millions creating a very attractive redevelopment of the ground."

WACA chief executive Kath White yesterday revealed that a new $10 million funding request would be made to the Government in the next few weeks to help build a new indoor cricket centre, refurbish media facilities, install a permanent video screen and erect shade cloth in the outer.

Documents obtained by The West Australian under Freedom of Information legislation reveal the Government and Department of Sport and Recreation strongly considered trying to shift cricket away from its 113-year-old home in East Perth.

Internationals would have been played at the 43,000-capacity Subiaco Oval and interstate matches would have moved to the refurbished Leederville Oval.

Selling the WACA Ground to help pay off football's $34 million debt on Subiaco Oval was part of the Government's rationale to play both sports at football headquarters.

The documents reveal the Government had been advised the WACA Ground could be worth between $40 and $60 million to the East Perth Redevelopment Authority, significantly more than the WACA's book value of $20 million.

But the Government was advised that convincing the WACA and its 8000 members to sell up would have been extremely difficult.

In the clearest indication of the Government's position, DSR director general Ron Alexander last year advised Carpenter against helping the WACA redevelop its ground and suggested cricket move elsewhere.

"Due consideration needs to be given (to) the capacity of Subiaco and Leederville ovals to accommodate international and State level matches respectively," Alexander wrote last April.

"A $15.4 million WACA Ground refurbishment cannot be justified to allow the facility to host a single Test match and three one-day international matches per annum.

"The proposal suggests the annual economic impact of the WACA and its activities on WA is (deleted).

"This alone does not support a refurbishment of the WACA Ground as this economic impact could be generated and enhanced by playing cricket at alternate (sic) venues with greater capacities such as Subiaco Oval."

The letter was written a month after White asked the State government for $4.4 million to help pay for the planned redevelopment.

White's request was the last in a series of claims for assistance made by the WACA to help fund a major redevelopment of the ground.

The WACA had previously sought an annual government grant of $1.5 million for 20 years - virtually identical to the deal that saw Subiaco Oval redeveloped in 2000 - to help pay for a $45 million ground project.

After the WACA's most recent approach was rebuffed by the Government, it borrowed $12.2 million to pay for a smaller redevelopment itself. It is due to start repaying $1.2 million a year in December 2005.

Alexander conceded it would be ideal for cricket and football to play at the one ground but that the chance had probably been lost.

"In a perfect world we would sell both venues and redevelop another one," he said.

Plea for video screen

A PERMANENT video screen costing about $1.5 million was required if the WACA was to guarantee future Tests matches in Perth, chief executive Kath White said.

In a letter to the Department of Sport and Recreation last October requesting funding help, White revealed that installing a replay screen was critical.

The association could pay about $100,000 a year for the screen, she said.

The WACA pays about $70,000 a year to hire a temporary screen for the annual Test and two one-dayers.

"It is now a mandatory requirement for Australian venues who wish to stage international cricket to have a replay screen," White said.

"From this season onwards, the WACA will be the only one of the six interstate venues that does not have a permanent facility.

"This situation is untenable and it is strategically vital we have this facility for the 2003-2004 cricket season."

The WACA will apply again to the government in the next weeks for funding to help install a permanent screen.

Poor press box nobbled World Cup chance

A DISASTROUS press box redevelopment cost the WACA the chance to host a World Cup rugby union match in October.

The WACA spent about $380,000 on its media facilities in the Lillee-Marsh stand last year - but blocked the view of big parts of the ground and scoreboard in doing so.

It then asked the State Government for another $2 million to upgrade the fifth-floor facility.

In a letter to Sports Minister Alan Carpenter in February this year, the WACA executive revealed its poor media facilities cost it the chance to hold a World Cup match.

"The inadequacy of the WACA's media facilities was brought home to us when the WACA applied to host some of the minor World Cup games," the letter said.

"Our media facilities were considered to be inadequate and this is the main reason why the WACA is not hosting any of these games.

"During the Ashes Test match, the media facilities received strong criticism. These criticisms were justified. As the media coverage takes Perth and its environs out to an estimated half a billion people around the world, it is crucial that the facilities are further upgraded."

The West Australian

WACA GroundSubiaco Oval

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