A smaller ‘boutique’ stadium could be a reality for Western Australia’s most iconic cricket ground under a new plan designed tackle growing patron dissatisfaction with deteriorating facilities.
Unveiling its 2030 vision, the Western Australian Cricket Association said there were considerable levels of concern over the state of the current WACA ground, and that there were fears the ground would increasingly lose favour once the new 55,000 seat Perth Stadium opens in 2018.
Under the plans, around $150-$200 million would be spent building a new stadium which would constitute a ‘medium’ sized venue and have a permanent seating capacity of up to 15,000, which could be raised to 18,000 with the inclusion of temporary seating for higher capacity matches.
New stands and more shaded areas are envisaged, as are new player facilities and high performance training facilities. There are also options to retain and refurbish the Lillie Marsh stands and the Players and Members stands.
Test matches would be shared between the WACA ground and Perth Stadium.
The plans represent a lower seating capacity compared with the current stadium, which has permanent seating for 22,000 rising to 24,500 when temporary seats are added.
Options for a larger stadium with 23,000 capacity were dismissed on financial sustainability grounds whilst an option to maintain the existing stadium but build a new high performance centre and otherwise conduct superficial refurbishments is considered a second preference which will be considered if funding is not available for the proposed new build.
First established in 1895, the WACA is viewed internationally as an iconic venue with a unique and exciting playing surface including a particularly bouncy pitch as well as a long history and tradition.
However, as other grounds around Australia have undergone upgrades and improvements, dissatisfaction with the venue is on the rise amid complaints of a lack of shade, uncomfortable seating, poor food and beverage offerings, unacceptably long queues to purchase tickets as well as food and beverages and inadequate toilet facilities.
Just 37 percent of patrons who attend test matches and 44 percent of those who attend one-day internationals report being satisfied with the venue, according to recent surveys conducted by the Association. Member satisfaction (45.3 percent) and the willingness of members to renew (62 percent) stood at all-time lows.
Meanwhile, Cricket Australia, the national administration body for cricket around the country, considers the ground to be the worst in the nation. In a recent letter to the Association’s Future Development Strategy Committee, it's Chief Executive Officer James Sutherland told the Committee that ‘without a compelling case for premium international teams and additional content, matches scheduled for Perth are likely to be less in number and less in spectator appeal.’
WACA Board Chairman and Vice President JB (Sam) Gannon welcomed the vision, saying that the proposals would help maintain growth of the sport at all levels and provide the state with the opportunity to showcase the best of international and domestic cricket at two modern stadiums.
"Cricket patrons in Western Australia acknowledge that the WACA Ground facilities need improving and the WACA Board has committed to a clear framework to invest in upgrades and ensure the ongoing viability of the WACA Ground and cricket in Western Australia,” Gannon said.
The Association will now submit funding requests to the State and Federal governments. An indicative timeline for development spans 2016 until 2021.