ADELAIDE OVAL HAS TRIUMPHED OVER A CONTROVERSIAL REBIRTH with its reputation as an iconic venue intact.
Previously called "one of the most picturesque Test cricket grounds in Australia, if not the world,” Adelaide Oval had a $535 million redevelopment completed in 2014, with new grandstands taking its capacity from 34,000 to the present record of 54,468.
The Adelaide Oval redevelopment was shortlisted for World Building of the Year at the 2015 World Architecture Festival
By retaining the northern mound, the 1911 scoreboard (designed by Kenneth Milne) and the view of St Peter’s Cathedral, the oval has managed a blend of past and present. The redevelopment encouraged Australian football back to the oval, sharing it with the South Australian Cricket Association that had controlled the oval since 1871.
A stadium management authority now runs the remodelled oval that has been a game changer for tourism, with major concerts including Rolling Stones, Adele and AC/DC and Groupe F’s launch of the 2016 Adelaide Festival.
Besides giving a major boost to crowds at Australian Football League matches, the oval has hosted an exhibition soccer game between Liverpool and Adelaide United and a boxing bout between Antony Mundine and Danny Green.
ADELAIDE OVAL'S ADDED ROLE AS 19th CENTURY ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE SOON DEVELOPS
Adelaide Oval was born in 1871 after the South Australian Cricket Association was formed and Adelaide City Council leased it 12 acres of parklands. First cricket game on the ground was in 1873 between Australian-born players and those born overseas. Next year, in its first international match, an All England XI, captained by W.G. Grace, defeated a South Australian XXII by seven wickets. South Australia lost its first game against Victoria by 15 runs. In 1877, the first Australian football game at Adelaide Oval was an intercolonial club match between Adelaide and St Kilda and, in the first South Australian Football Association match, Adelaide club (1860-1893) beat the Bankers (1877), four goals to one. Also that year, in the first first-class cricket match over two days, South Australia defeated Tasmania by an innings and 13 runs. George Giffen made his debut with 47 runs and 4/16. Adelaide Lawn Tennis Club was formed and played matches on the oval from 1878. In that year, John Hill scored the first Adelaide Oval century for North Adelaide against a touring Kent side. He was the father of Clem Hill who became an Australian Test captain 1896-1912. Six of Clem Hill’s brothers played for South Australia. John Pickering was founding secretary of the South Australian Cricket Association 1871-73, followed by Montevideo-born Henry Sparks, an all-round athlete and businessman who became a manager of the South Australian Company.
Adelaide Oval in the 1880s hosted its first Test cricket match just six months after the first ever Test at Lord’s in 1884. In the following year, the first football match played under electric light, between Adelaide and South Australia, drew a crowd of 8,000. Another major novelty in 1885 was the wrestling match when remarkable all-round athlete William Miller, with a broken leg, defeated Scottish wrestler and weight lifter Donald Dinnie. But one of the biggest spectator attractions at the Oval during the 19th Century were two Aboriginal corroborees, attracting about 20,000 on the first night. In the first Test match at Adelaide Oval in 1884, England beat Australia by eight wickets. This made Adelaide Oval the sixth venue in the world to host a Test – a tradition continued every summer. (In 1894, the oval Test crowd saw Albert Trott take 8/43 – the ground's best single-innings Test bowling figure – on debut against England.) The other big fixture was the first grand final in a major Australian football competition between Norwood (7.4) and Port Adelaide (5.9) in 1889. During the 1880s, the George Giffen Stand replaced an earlier wooden structure and remained until 2009. Another grandstand (1889) was built for the general public to the south of the members’ stand. It was later incorporated into the Sir Edwin Smith Stand. As part of the oval’s added role as an entertainment centre, during 1888, a rollercoaster was built on the present Riverbank Stand site.
From hero to zero. Alexander Crooks, famous for catching out W.G. Grace, became the aptly named culprit blamed for the 1880s collapse of a major Adelaide bank. The spread of railways had fuelled the colony’s 1880s land boom and speculation. In February 1886, the shock came when the Commercial Bank of South Australia closed its doors at 74 King William Street. Shareholders meeting at Adelaide Town Hall were told the bank had lost money in mining speculation and the blame was sheeted home to its manager: Crooks. It also embarrassed the bank directors, including members of Adelaide’s social elite such as Richard Tarlton and Henry Ayers. Ironically, Crooks, a bank clerk, had come to the notice of that elite in 1874 in a moment of cricketing fame when, representing South Australia against an All England XI at Adelaide Oval, he took a spectacular boundary catch to dismiss the legendary W. G. Grace (for six runs). Crooks was soon treasurer of the South Australian Cricket Association (SACA) and, by 1885, he became its chairman. A large part of the bank’s cash deficiency turned out to be money misappropriated by Crooks as SACA treasurer. The bank shareholders’ meeting called for Crooks’ lynching. He avoided that but served eight years in Yatala prison. The bank went into liquidation.The South Australian Cricket Association avoided that, helped by a secret loan from the brewer Edwin Smith.
Norwood-born George Giffen made Adelaide Oval a record-breaking venue in 1891 by turning on the greatest all-round performance in first-class cricket, scoring 271 runs and taking 16 wickets for 166 runs against Victoria. Clem Hill scored 365 not out in South Australia’s win by an innings over New South Wales in 1900. The 1890s brought a lasting physical change to the oval with The Hill created in 1898 with earth taken from the banks of the River Torrens. The oval also had the Ladies’ and Smokers’ stands added on the northern side of the members’ grandstand in 1895. The first of the Moreton Bay fig trees, that became the backdrop for the oval’s northern end, were planted as far back in the 1890s. The picket fence was put up in 1900 around the oval, now with a cycling track that left a lasting impression on the oval with straight boundaries on the east and west. In 1903, the first world champion black athlete, cyclist “Major” Taylor, raced at Adelaide Oval, winning 11 races from 14 events. The first of two men’s Australasian tennis championships (forerunner of the Australian Open) was played at Adelaide Oval courts in 1910. Adelaide Oval became a venue for royal visits. In 1901, a public school display for the duke and duchess of York drew a crowd of 30,000. The duchess had already visited Adelaide Oval to present trophies at the St Peter’s-Prince Alfred intercollegiate football match and the couple returned for a military tattoo.
Not far from Adelaide Oval, the Jubilee Oval was created in 1895, between the Jubilee Exhibition building on North Terrace and the River Torrens. It was next to the railway station at the end of Jubilee Exhibition railway line that operated 1887-1927 from Adelaide Railway Station. The oval had a banked cycle racing track with a grandstand and mound seating built in 1896. Jubilee Oval hosted the 1904 South Australian Football Association grand final won by Norwood over Port Adelaide. This was the only South Australian football premiership not decided at Adelaide Oval or Football Park. Jubilee Oval was created in part for the Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society as a venue for its show, replacing its Old Exhibition Grounds. The autumn show was staged at the Jubilee building in May 1895, with horse events and, later, the livestock show at the new site. The first race on the cycle track was in 1895. Its first league football match was Norwood v. West Adelaide on May 7,1898. It became North Adelaide Football Club's home ground 1898-1901 and 1904. In 1923, Australia played a 2-0 soccer draw with China there in front of 9000. The oval also was used for motorcycle and bicycle racing, trotting, athletics, lacrosse, Boy Scout jamborees, military training and a quarantine camp during the 1919 influenza epidemic. The Jubilee Oval space was taken over by Adelaide University after the Royal Adelaide Show moved to Wayville in 1925.
ADELAIDE INCREASINGLY MAKES OVAL THE CENTRE OF ATTENTION IN 20th CENTURY
The Bodyline Test at Adelaide Oval in 1933 attracted international attention and a record Saturday crowd of 50,962 and total attendance of 174,351 saw England defeat Australia by 338 runs. The blows to Australian captain Bill Wood full and Bert Oldfield, and the employment of the bodyline field brought accusations of “unsporting” English behaviour. Two years earlier, Don Bradman had scored the oval’s highest Test score, 229 not out, against South Africa. In the same game, South Australia’s Clarrie Grimmett collected 14 wickets, the most in a Test match at the ground, in the Australia’s 10-wicket win. A year before he moved to live in Adelaide, Don Bradman went into the third 1932-33 Test against England at the oval with a batting average twice that of all other world-class batsmen. The English, captained by Douglas Jardine, decided to bowl at the body of the batsman. On the second day of the Test, the big crowd ball saw English bowler Harold Larwood hit Australian captain Bill Woodfull over his heart. Play was halted and the English team used the chance to move their fielders to maximise the effects of bodyline bowling. The spectators became angry. Woodfull remained at the crease and scored 73 not out. Bert Oldfield wasn't so lucky, sustaining a fractured skull from a hostile Larwood delivery. On the third day, mounted police patrolled the oval to keep the 50,962 spectators (a record crowd for cricket at the ground) in order.
A gridiron game staged by American servicemen based in Adelaide on Independence Day (July 4) in 1942 added to the unusual sporting events on Adelaide Oval. The gridiron match watched by 28,000 at Adelaide Oval in 1942 was between team from two American Army camps, playing as the Bears (Chicago) and Packers (Green Bay). It was the first game of the sport to be played seriously in Australia. Football gear was sent from the USA and, during intervals, four military bands played.In 1949, the first women’s Test match against England attracted 17,025 over three days. All-rounder Betty Wilson starred for the home side with a century and nine wickets in an easy win for Australia. A women's Australian football match at Adelaide Oval in 1929, billed as main attraction of an annual charity day, was between workers of the Charles Moore & Co. factory and the Mirror Shirt and Pyjama Factory and seen by 41,000. During World War II, the eight South Australian men’s league football teams combined into four in 1942 to sustain the competition. A stark reminder of the war was watched by 21,543 at Adelaide Oval in 1943 when a giant Lancaster bomber put on a 15-minute display. Three RAAF bombers simulated a raid with gelignite shaking the ground like a bomb fall. More explosions went with hits on first-aid posts. Mobile first-aid units in converted delivery trucks raced onto the oval, while demolition and rescue squads went into action.
Last batsmen Ken Mackay and Lindsay Kline held out for 109 minutes in one of Adelaide Oval’s most gripping cricket episodes to give Australia a draw against the West Indies in the fourth Test of the 1960-61 Frank Worrell Trophy series. Lance Gibbs took the oval’s only Test cricket hat trick in Australia's first innings. Another big day for the oval was 1965 South Australian National Football League grand final won by Port Adelaide over Sturt before a record 62,543. Next year, Sturt would start its five-year premiership reign. In 1967, the oval's eastern Victor Richardson Gates opened in honour of Sturt and South Australia’s greatest all-round sportsman. Victor York Richardson scored 27 centuries in first-class cricket, represented Australia at baseball, South Australia at golf and tennis, and excelled at lacrosse, basketball, and swimming. He captained South Australia and Australia at cricket, captained the South Australian football team, and an outstanding gymnast, athlete, and hockey player. He later became a journalist and a radio commentator. In 1965, South Australia had an astonishing 12-11 to 3-1 win in Australian football at Adelaide Oval over Victoria who kicked only one goal after the first term and were scoreless in the second and last quarters. Their final score was the smallest in 86 years of intercolonial and interstate football. Adding to Adelaide Oval's versatility for 15 years from 1960 were the Highland Games.
ADELAIDE OVAL LEFT TO SURVIVE BY MAINLY RELYING ON CRICKET AFTER 1974
Adelaide Oval has strong reminders of its long links to Don Bradman as a player and administrator. The oval was special to Bradman the batsman. His debut and last first-class matches were there. In between that 1927-49 span, his 60 innings in 40 games at Adelaide Oval produced 4840 runs at an 89.62 average with 18 centuries. Bradman’s 368 against Tasmania in 1936 is the record first-class score for Adelaide Oval and it was part of him leading South Australia to a Sheffield Shield win. In seven Test matches and 11 innings at Adelaide Oval, Bradman scored 970 at an average of 107.77 with three double-hundreds, including setting the record for the highest individual Test score in Australia of 299 not out against South Africa in 1932. Adelaide Oval was the setting for another two of Don Bradman’s extraordinary feats. He took Test wickets – his only two wickets – bowling leg breaks at the oval, against the West Indies in 1930 and against England (getting Walter Hammond) in 1933. In retirement, Bradman, who made Adelaide his home for 65 years, was honoured at the Oval with the naming of the Bradman Dining Room in 1986 and the opening of the Sir Donald Bradman Stand in 1990. This stand was replaced in the remodelled Adelaide Oval, but his name adorns the new setup. Following Bradman’s wishes, his collection of memorabilia is now housed in the Riverbank Stand at the oval.
Don Bradman put Adelaide Oval at the centre of running Australia cricket through his half a century as an administrator, notably as national selector and chairman of the Australian Cricket Board. Bradman was hundreds of South Australian Cricket Association meetings in roles ranging from president, treasurer, selector and coach plus watching games in the committee room at the George Giffen Stand and players at the practice nets. Reviews on Bradman’s role as administrator are mixed. At Australian Cricket Board level, he was board chairman when the 1971-72 South Africa tour was cancelled. His other big national challenge came from the Kerry Packer’s World Series cricket in the 1970s. Refusing to pay the Australian Test players their full market value, Bradman came up against team captain Ian Chappell – grandson of Vic Richardson, an Australian/South Australian captain whose relationship with Bradman had strains. Bradman was at the centre of the bitter split, from 1969, between the South Australian Cricket Association and South Australian National Football League over use of Adelaide Oval. This caused football finals to be moved when the SANFL set up its own West Lakes stadium in 1974. The rift was healed in 2012, with cricket and football sharing the running of the remodelled $535 million Adelaide Oval, financed by the state government.
Australian football finals left Adelaide Oval in the 1970s. They went out on a high note with Barrie Robran starring in North Adelaide's win over Carlton in 1972 to become national club champion in Australian football. It would be the last win by a non-Victorian football side for a national championship until West Coast Eagles took out the 1992 Australian Football League premiership. The 1973 SANFL grand final between North Adelaide and Glenelg was the last at Adelaide Oval until the return to the remodelled oval, shared by football and cricket, in 2014. The high-scoring game saw Glenelg beat North Adelaide by seven points. The SANFL moved football finals to its new Football Park at West Lakes from 1974. This climaxed SANFL’s long-running dispute with the South Australian Cricket Association and its control of Adelaide Oval. One attempt to fill the fixtures gap at Adelaide Oval in 1975 was the first limited-over international cricket match with Australia winners over West Indies by five wickets. Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 concert led a string of big-name music performers ( Linda Ronstadt, KISS, Simon and Garfunkel, Paul McCartney, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Elton John, Billy Joel, Neil Diamond, Pearl Jam, AC/DC) at the oval. David Bowie, in 1978, presented his first southern hemisphere concert at Adelaide Oval: the first large outdoor event he’d played.
South Australian cricket captain David Hookes hammered a century – regarded by some as the fastest in first-class cricket – in 43 minutes from 34 balls at Adelaide Oval in a 1982 Sheffield Shield game. The colourful Hookes's international career didn’t bloom after its sensational start. After his A Grade debut with West Torrens at 15, Hookes represented South Australia in 1975-76. Five centuries from six innings, in February 1977, saw him picked for the Centenary Test. In Australia's second innings, Hookes made 56 and hit Tony Greig for five consecutive boundaries. Hookes was a key personality marketed by the breakaway World Series Cricket. In a Sydney Supertest, an Andy Roberts bouncer broke Hookes’ s jaw and his confidence. The South Australian Cricket Association gambled by appointing Hookes as South Australia captain 1981–82. He led the state to the Sheffield Shield. Improved confidence and form led to a return to the Australian team 1982–83 Ashes team. In 1987, Hookes shared a record unbroken Adelaide Oval stand with Wayne Phillips of 462 for South Australia, with Hookes making 306 in 385 minutes off 314 balls. After retiring, Hookes joined the media. In 2002, he led the Victorian team's revival as coach. Controversial in comments and private life, Hookes was in a fatal brawl at Beaconsfield Hotel, Melbourne, in 2004. Adelaide Oval hosted Hookes’ funeral service before a crowd of 10,000.
Adelaide Oval is where England’s Barmy Army was founded in 1994, on the Hill underneath the famous scoreboard. On Day 1 of the 1994 Ashes Test, supporters of the English cricket team headed to T Shirt City on Hindley Street during the lunch break and ordered 50 shirts saying “Atherton's Barmy Army” with the Union Jack on the back. By the end of the Test, more than 200 shirts had been bought. Meanwhile, some more serious madness was brewing the South Australian Cricket Association’s attempt to install lighting to lure Australian football or rugby league to the oval during the winter months. But the cricket association had to battle Adelaide City Council, residents of North Adelaide and protectors of the oval’s look, who claimed towers would be a blight. After a radical solution to install retractable light towers was chosen, work began in 1995 but with delays and cost blowouts. The lights were used for two day/night cricket matches in December 1997 but, on Saint Patrick's Day 1998, the No.2 tower collapsed and two injured men were left dangling from a crane by their harnesses. After an inquiry and an expensive legal fight between the light's designer and the construction company, South Australian Cricket Association submitted new plans for permanent lights. It started a new battle but with design changes, the oval’s permanent lights were finally switched on in 2000. The entire exercise had cost about $20 million.
When Adelaide Oval hosted the World Cup rugby union in 2003, with Australia defeating Namibia 142-0 in a record win before 33,000. It pointed to the oval’s potential as a major stadium. The two Chappell stands, named after the South Australian cricketing brothers Ian, Greg and Trevor (grandsons of Victor Richardson) were completed on the eastern side in a big to give more seating and shade. For the 2006-2007 Ashes Test, extra temporary stands had to be put up between the Chappell stands and on the top of the hills to cope with the demand for tickets. Australia beat England by six wickets on a remarkable last day. In August 2008, the South Australian Cricket Association (SACA) announced plans to redevelop the ground, expanding capacity to 40,000. The playing surface would be changed and a remodelled western stand built. The aim was to make the ground viable for hosting Australian Football League games as well as international soccer and rugby. The state and federal governments each pledged $25 million to the project, leaving the SACA to raise at least $45 million. The SACA planned for the new western stand to be ready in time for the 2010-11 Ashes. In 2009, the original western stands – the George Giffen (1882), Sir Edwin Smith (1922) and Mostyn Evan (1929) – were demolished. The new western stand would have 14,000 individual seats with improved amenities for SACA members.
SOUTH AUSTRALIAN CRICKET ASSOCIATION MEMBERS VOTE IN 2011
Before the 2010 state election, the opposition Liberal Party proposed a roofed stadium at Riverside West on the site of the state Labor government’s intended new hospital at the western end of North Terrace, Adelaide. The government responded by announcing a $450 million upgrade of the whole of Adelaide Oval, rather than just the western grandstand. Labor’s election win meant the upgrade went ahead but for a higher $535 million that included the government clearing the South Australian Cricket Association (SACA) $85 million debt. After an agreement by SACA, the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) and the Australian Football League, premier Mike Rann promised that the oval’s key heritage features, including the scoreboard, northern mound outer, open cathedral end and Moreton Bay fig trees would stay. Adelaide Oval Stadium Management Authority was registered in 2009, with directors from SACA and SANFL. The SACA and the SANFL committed to the project in 2010, with Australian football to use Adelaide Oval during its season. The project included a $40 million River Torrens pedestrian bridge. The oval project still hung on three-quarters of SACA members voting for the SANFL and AFL having control over the stadium for seven months of the year. By 10.15pm, on May 2, 2011, at an extraordinary meeting at Adelaide showgrounds, 80.37% of votes favoured Adelaide Oval being redeveloped.
Adelaide Oval’s redevelopment cost topped $600 million but has repaid it in awards and record attendances for concerts, AFL and cricket matches – yet retained elements of its heritage. The oval has become the centrepiece of the revitalised Riverbank precinct and a major boost for the city’s economy. The venue continued to be a history maker by hosting the first day/night Test cricket match, using a pink ball, in 2015 when Australia played New Zealand – followed by the first day/night Ashes Test in 2017 that attracted a record crowd of 199,760 over five days. The new Adelaide Oval has received state, national and international awards including an excellence gong in structural design by the Institution of Structural Engineers in London and Event of the Year for the 2016 Hyundai A-League soccer grand final, attended by 51,000, between Adelaide United and the Western Sydney Wanderers by the global Stadium Business Awards. Presented in Dublin. Australian Football League (AFL) crowds have jumped by more than 60% since games were moved from Football Park. In 2014, the ground hosted its first AFL finals game, an elimination won by Port Adelaide over Richmond in front of 50,618. South Australian National Football League finals also have returned to Adelaide Oval. Adele’s oval concert set a new 70,000-plus record for largest attendance at an Adelaide show, with other big nights for the Rolling Stones, AC/DC and Guns N’ Roses.
As well as returning elements of its heritage, Adelaide Oval is an oval again after its internationally recognised stadium redevelopment. Reshaping the oval, with the short boundaries made deeper and every spectator brought 20 metres closer to the centre of play, started with Hassell Studio’s work on the western grandstand. This was completed with Cox Architecture, Walter Brooke and Hames Sharley’s work on the overall concept that in 2016 saw Adelaide Ovall nominated for The Stadium Business international award as one of the six best sports venues in the world – in competition with the Melbourne Cricket Ground, as well as the new T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, London’s Twickenham Stadium and Florida’s Daytona International Speedway. The Institution of Structural Engineers in London gave the oval an award for excellence in structural design, beating projects such as the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in the UAE. It also was shortlisted for World Building of the Year and won the Australian Institute of Architects’ award for public architecture in 2015, the national Colorbond award for steel architecture, and the state’s highest honour, the Jack McConnell award for public architecture. Les Burdett, who joined the oval’s South Australian Cricket Association staff in 1969 and was oval manager from 1978, became an international consultant on the strength of his pitches and grounds work.
Adelaide Oval has built on its day-to-day attractions with its tours, Bradman Collection and rooftop walk on the western and Riverbank grandstand. The oval also has become a focus for functions with 23 purpose-built rooms, corporate suites, BBQ terraces, the Audi Stadium Club and the Hill of Grace Restaurant. The 90-minute oval tours take in behind-the-scenes look at the heritage-listed scoreboard and the players’ change rooms. Tour departures are Monday to Friday 10am, 11am and 2pm; Saturday and Sunday 10 am, 11am, 1pm and 2pm. (Excluding some public holidays and event days.) The tour also includes the Bradman Collection, on loan from the State Library of South Australia, in the southern Riverbank Stand. The collection tells the story of Australia’s greatest cricketer with an insight into Australian life from the 1920s to 1970s. The collection, including memorabilia and bats, is open Monday to Sunday from 9am to 4pm (except public holidays and event days) and is free for public viewing. Adelaide Oval rooftop walks let groups take in views from the top of the oval from the western stand to the Riverbank stand. Sixteen seats on the Riverbank stand roof allow the climbers to view of the city and suburbs. Or they can sit directly 50 metres above looking down on a game. The climbs are offered during daytime, at sunset and at night, and children aged 12 and above are allowed to join the walks.