$70m upgrade but no footy
January 27, 2007 12:15am
Article from: The Advertiser
ADELAIDE Oval's western stand will be upgraded at a cost of $70 million after the Federal Government yesterday backed the project Ã¢â‚¬â€œ but there will still be no AFL matches played there.
The long-awaited upgrade will boost the ground's capacity to 37,000, fuelling the South Australian Cricket Association's ambition to host top-level football.
The SACA's AFL bid yesterday was backed by Lord Mayor Michael Harbison, federal Finance Minister Nick Minchin and state Opposition Leader Iain Evans.
But the AFL, SANFL and local AFL clubs Adelaide and Port Adelaide again flatly ruled out moving any games from AAMI Stadium at West Lakes.
Senator Minchin yesterday used the traditional Australia Day day-night cricket match to announce funding of up to $25 million, conditional on matching funds from the State Government.
Premier Mike Rann, who has already committed $16 million, welcomed the federal contribution and said he was prepared to consider providing an extra $9 million.
This would bring the combined funding from the two governments to $50 million.
SACA chairman Ian McLachlan said even without the extra $18 million, the SACA was prepared to borrow enough to begin the project after Easter, 2008.
Expected to take at least 18 months, it will add a tier to the western stand, providing extra bars, dining rooms, corporate boxes and capacity for an extra 5000 spectators.
Mr McLachlan said the expansion would "most certainly attract rugby, soccer and, I hope one day, the AFL".
But SANFL executive commissioner Leigh Whicker immediately dismissed the idea and said: "How many times do we have to go through this? We have made our position very clear, the AFL has made its position very clear. It is not on our agenda at all Ã¢â‚¬â€œ full stop."
AFL spokesman Patrick Keane agreed, saying SA already had an outstanding football stadium.
Adelaide Football Club chief Steven Trigg said: "AAMI Stadium is our home, where we want to be."
Likewise, Port Adelaide Football Club chief executive John James said his club was "totally committed" to AAMI Stadium and described SACA's push for AFL as "wishful thinking".
The SANFL last year unveiled plans for a $70 million facelift of AAMI Stadium over the next five years.
Mr Harbison said he would love to see footy at Adelaide Oval. "I've always been very supportive of that," he said.
Mr Evans said Friday night football at Adelaide Oval would be tremendous but he acknowledged commercial realities at AAMI Stadium meant it was "never going to happen".