Sunday October 6 was the end of an era with AAMI Stadium (Football Park), the home of South Australian football, playing host to its last match before the big move to the redeveloped Adelaide Oval.
It was fitting that the last game was an SANFL Grand Final, and a big crowd of 36,685 flocked to West Lakes to see Norwood defeat North Adelaide by 40 points. It was the biggest SANFL attendance since the 1999 Grand Final when 39,135 watched Port Adelaide defeat Norwood.
Football Park, as it was originally known as, played host to its first game of football on May 4, 1974, some two and a half years after the new venue was announced.
There were many similarities between Adelaide’s Football Park and Melbourne’s Waverley Park, from its intended purpose, general design, construction phases and intended use post-AFL days.
Football Park was built to free the SANFL from the cricket-controlled Adelaide Oval and original plans were for it to have a capacity of 80,000. Waverley was built to free the VFL from the MCG and was intended to have a 140,000 capacity. Both venues ended up about half that.
The first match in 1974 between Central District and North Adelaide was played in somewhat of a construction zone. Phase one was soon completed though and the venue had a capacity of around 62,000 – with all but the main grandstand standing room.
Aluminium bench seating was gradually installed around the ground and the concourse roof around the ground was finished by 1982, reducing the capacity to around 50,000.
Several improvement were made at the venue throughout the years. The four light towers were completed in 1984, new corporate boxes were built at the southern end in 1997, the first video scoreboard was installed in 1998. The most significant redevelopment came in 2001 with the completion of the 7,000-seat Northern Grandstand. In 2004, the infamous aluminium seats around the ground were replaced by plastic bucket seating.
Adelaide two AFL sides have called Football Park home since their inception – Adelaide Crows in 1991 and Port Adelaide in 1997. Other than football, the venue played host to World Series Cricket in the late 1970’s, State of Origin, International Rules and even one National Soccer League match in the 1990’s. The occasional concert was also held there.
The Crows defeated Melbourne in their final match at the venue in front of 34,653 while Port Adelaide hosted the final AFL match, losing to Carlton in front of 45,127 fans.
South Australia is moving on and the huge redevelopment of the inner-city Adelaide Oval will provide the CBD with a world-class stadium suitable for all sports. Both the Crows and Power as well as the SANFL headquarters will shift to the upgraded venue.
While it will be missed, Football Park is not yet finished. The Crows will continue to use the ground as its headquarters and training facility for the foreseeable future but the area around the site is expected to be used for housing, similar to Waverley Park.
There is one remaining event scheduled at the venue – a Bon Jovi concert on December 11. There has also been whispers the SANFL may be considering using Football Park as an alternative ground in 2014, but time will tell on that one.
For now, life as we know it at Football Park is done and dusted, and an exciting future lies ahead at the new Adelaide Oval.
What will you miss most about Football Park? Tell us below.