The Main Arena at the Brisbane Showgrounds (formerly known as the Brisbane Exhibition Ground) is operated by the Royal National Agricultural and Industrial Association of Queensland (RNA). The Royal Queensland Show, or 'Ekka' as Queenslander's refer to it, is staged by the Showgrounds in August each year and attracts more than 600,000 visitors.
Located adjacent to the Brisbane CBD at Bowen Hills, the Showgrounds are bound by Bowen Bridge Road, O'Connell Terrace, St Paul's Terrace and Gregory. The main arena is surrounded by several stands with a total seating capacity of 20,526. Standing room for an additional 4,964 people brings the grounds capacity to 25,490. The oldest stand at the ground is The John McDonald Stand (1906), which seats 2,225 people. The Ernest Baynes Stand, when opened in 1922, seated almost 4,000 people. The top section of the double-deck stand closed in 1985 following a safety inspection. When renovated in 1993, an 'old-fashioned' roof replaced the closed-off section. Today, it seats 1,750 people. The Members Stand, situated between the McDonald and Baynes stands, was opened in 1972 and seats 778. The concrete terrace that stretches around the northern end of the ground is called Machinery Hill and seats almost 11,000 people.
The RNA came into existence in 1875 and secured tenancy at Bowen Hills. In 1880 work started on converting the site's swamp into a showground arena and was completed by 1886. It included a small stand and an asphalt pitch laid by Fortitudes CC. Athletics meetings also became a regular event. A 400 metre trotting/cycling track and turf pitches for matches against the touring English team were provided the following year, when the arena was enlarged. In 1895 the first inter-colonial tennis match took place with Queensland playing NSW as part of a tournament at the ground. In 1896, the ground became the main venue for cycle racing.
Three rugby Tests and five rugby league Tests have been played at the Exhibition Ground. The ground was the venue for the rugby Tests against the British Isles in 1899 and 1904 and was the scene of angry anti-apartheid demonstrations during the Test against South Africa in 1971. The Springboks match was moved from Ballymore because it was easier to erect barricades at the Exhibition Ground. The initial rugby league Test in Brisbane was played against New Zealand at the ground in 1908. The rugby league Tests against England in 1928 and 1946 drew capacity attendances of 39,200 and 40,400 respectively. Officials closed the gates three hours before the start of the 1946 Test, but the gates were forced open and many people climbed over the walls, so the actual attendance was probably closer to 50,000. Two more rugby league Tests were played at the ground (against Great Britain in 1958 and New Zealand in 1959) before Lang Park became the code's main venue.
Twenty-eight first-class cricket matches were been played at the Exhibition Ground between 1893 and 1931, including two Tests and thirteen Sheffield Shield matches. The Exhibition Ground became the main venue for cricket in Brisbane in 1923/24 and was the venue for the match played between the touring MCC team and an Australian XI in 1924/25. The Test against England in 1928/29 was the first Test played in Brisbane and featured the debut of D.G. Bradman, who scored 18 and 1. The ground measured 142 x 155m fence-to-fence. The third Test of the series against the West Indies in 1930/31 was the last first-class game played at the ground.
Speedway racing was introduced to the ground in 1926, but latter banned so that the ground could be prepared for the 1928 cricket Test. Speedway racing returned in 1932 but had to be suspended again during the Second World War when the Exhibition Ground was used as a staging camp for the Armed Services. An estimated crowd of 50,000 attended the ground when speedway racing resumed in March 1946.
Today, the Brisbane Exhibition Ground is mainly used for the annual Show, which has been held there every year, bar two, since 1876, as well as speedway racing, equestrian events, and previously Baseball with the Brisbane Bandits playing their ABL home games at the venue until the end of the 2012/13 season. The venue will host events during the Brisbane 2032 Olympic Games.
Brisbane Showgrounds Details
Brisbane Exhibition Ground