With the first ball of the Ashes test series fast approaching, building contractors are busy putting the final touches on a $5.1 million upgrade to the Gabba in order to ready the ground for the vital first game.

Conducting a behind-the-scenes tour of the venue followed by a pitch inspection on Thursday, Queensland Sport Minister Steve Dickenson says preparations are progressing well for the event, which is expected to provide a significant boost to the state’s economy.

“These works will benefit players, fans, hirers, working media and broadcasters for major national and international events into the future,” Dickenson said of current construction efforts, adding that with the first three days of the match already close to sold out, the state was expecting similar economic benefits to the $59 million derived from the last Ashes test in 2010.

He added that managing contractor Watpac had completed a monumental task in readying the ground in just 11 weeks following the final Brisbane Lions game in August and that the upgrade would ensure the venue can continue to host top line cricket matches.

“Major sporting and entertainment events have a vital role in growing tourism as one of the state’s four economic pillars,” he said.

Begun immediately after the end of the AFL season, the works include a new 20,000 square metre field of legend couch turf; player change rooms with new lockers, bathrooms and ice baths; 31 gold class leather seating corporate box facilities in the Northern Stand; new sight screens at the Vulture and Stanley Street end and a new 16-metre scoreboard at the Mains Road end.

Paywave and eftpos facilities for patrons have also been installed. Media facilities have been upgraded with more space and improved Wi-Fi services, and the layout of the outside broadcast facility has been changed.

Describing new outside corporate space as ‘a bit like sitting on your back deck,’ Gabba manager Blair Conaghan said anticipation was building in the lead-up to the match and the stadium was evolving to meet patron demand.

“All the contractors involved in the project have had a spring in their step, as they’re working on a Queensland icon and are all looking forward to 21 November,” he said.

Local Aussie fast bowler Ryan Harris is looking forward to what will be his first test at his home ground.

“The Gabba has always been a great ground for me with the Queensland Bulls and the Brisbane Heat, but to play a Test there for the first time is going to be very special,” he said. “It’s a week to go and I can’t wait to get out there.”