Over the hill: an era ends at the SCG

Austadiums   |  Tuesday 24th October 2006


Since 1854, when the first recorded match was played between the Garrison Club and the Royal Victoria Club, the Sydney Cricket Ground has had "the hill". That, however, is set to change.

When the last ball is bowled in the second limited-overs final on January 11 next year, the hill will have witnessed its last international match. Demolition crews will move in within the week to clear way for a new $60 million grandstand, which is scheduled to be completed by mid-2008. Thus, the end of an era will be heralded by the cacophony of wrecking balls and cranes. The future may not be sentimental, but at least it will offer better vistas.

Many argue that the soul of the hill was lost in 1991 when, after years of crowd trouble, it was deemed necessary to cover the grassy undulations with concrete and plastic. Yet folks can still make out the contours of a patch of land from which Yabba once famously yelled to a swatting Douglas Jardine: "Leave our flies alone!" And they can still cast their minds back to sepia images from a bygone era in which the hill, jammed with spectators, spanned the entire ground, save for the Members, Ladies and Bob stands.

But times have changed, and the need for a world-class cricket stadium has superseded the romantic notion of retaining the hill, concrete and plastic though it may now be. All is not lost for the sentimentalists, however. The new SCG will feature a white picket fence, as it did when the Garrison and Royal Victoria clubs first marked centre 152 years ago.

The Sydney Cricket Ground Trust is hopeful that the state Department of Planning will approve its submission within the fortnight, allowing the demolition and construction works to be put out to tender. Should all go to plan, the new SCG will have two giant scoreboards - the existing one to be relocated atop the Dally Messenger Stand and another to be erected beneath the roof of the Clive Churchill Stand - a beer garden/food court behind the hill and a new entrance behind the Bradman Stand, which will feature the old scoreboard, now behind the Doug Walters Stand.

Those will complement the new, yet-to-be-named grandstand, which will cover the area now occupied by Yabba's Hill and the Doug Walters Stand. Designed by the same firm that created the new northern stand at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the SCG stand will have a conference room, corporate boxes and escalators. In all, the development will raise the SCG's capacity from 44,000 to 47,000. The concourse areas will still have lower-priced seating.

Alex Brown
Sydney Morning Herald


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