RAW: ADELAIDE OVAL UPDATE – THREE HURDLES TO CROSS NOT ONE

Despite copious amounts of cheer leading from The Advertiser, there are in fact (at least) three major hurdles that the Adelaide Oval redevelopment still needs to traverse in order for the project to go ahead, two more beyond the SACA members’ vote that seems to be that paper’s focus of attention.

The first is how is this going to be financed. The Government’s contribution is capped at $535m but estimates of the project shortfall are put at between $100m – $200m. Despite all sorts of assurances from Minister Conlon about the private sector being willing to invest a few weeks back, no one has come forward and now only the AFL is mentioned as the funder of last resort.

But has the AFL got a spare $100m or more? Sure it is wealthy but with west Sydney, the Gold Coast, North Melbourne and Port to carry, it is doubtful even they, with the SA Government pitching in all those taxpayer dollars to support football alone, can come at that bill.

So, is this the project promised or some scaled back, half baked version, somewhat like the new Western Grandstand that no one will tell us about until it all too late again? Or will it be another pea and thimble trick like the desalination plant that has on-going costs that will dwarf the capital costs, all in the name of the right headline number? Time will tell.

The second hurdle is indeed the SACA members’ vote. The details recorded in The Advertiser yesterday suggest that not only is the ground to be given to football for more than half the year and there will be drop in pitches, but only at most a quarter of SACA members will be able to get football entry as a part of their membership and that may cost them another $600-$1000pa.

To be sure, that prospect is not what SACA members endorsed in principle through surveys two years ago and their President, Ian McLachlan is going to have a tough time convincing them it was and that this remains a good idea.

Further, there are growing doubts about how long things like the northern hill and scoreboard will remain once football gets its claws back into the oval. Others are wondering why the SANFL get the financial windfall of West Lakes land for putting zero in while the SACA lose their major asset. Also, what will the oval look like as a spectacle for test matches, even Ashes matches. At best it will be half full for three days every four years, with the views of the hills, city and mostly the cathedral gone (unless the SMA intends paying to move some or all of those as well!)

Finally, there are the parklands issues involved. It seems very likely that however this deal between the SACA, SANFL and the Government is structured, changes to parklands involved, whether of just Pennington Gardens or beyond relating to handing over this land to private operators, will require the approval of both houses of State Parliament. At present, the Labor Government controls only the lower house, so it will need to negotiate with / buy off the non-Liberals in the Legislative Council to get this through.

City Council documents seen by Kryztoff make it plain that the laws and regulations around parklands changes are strict and complex – even loss of certain views from the oval is a heritage issue.

Let’s not forget the electors of this State were denied the opportunity to record their vote on this issue with full and frank disclosure at the last election 12 months ago due to a ‘forgetful’ then Treasurer. Let’s not forget also, the oval is the property of the SACA until 2040 and its members owe no duty of concern for the members of the SANFL, the Crows and Port Power (who will be the only ones who will get into the place once completed – ie no ordinary taxpayers will get a look in.)

So, while The Advertiser ramps up its campaign to convince SACA members they will be party poopers if they don’t go along with football’s takeover, the real final vote (if it gets that far) may in fact rest with Messrs Brokenshire, Darley, Hood and Parnell and Mesdames Bressington, Franks and Vincent, the non-Liberal and Labor members of the Legislative Council. The ALP will need four of these seven to vote with it. With the Greens out, then it’s down four of the remaining five.

So, two final questions. With what we are now coming to know about this deal, what’s in it for cricket lovers and SACA members and why does Ian Mclachlan still think this is such a good deal for them? Remember also, he and SACA CEO John Harnden have said they are ‘comfortable’ with meeting their debt obligations arising from the western grandstand if the development does not go ahead. So fear of being bankrupted can’t be behind it, can it?

And, what’s wrong with holding off and getting this right? That is, as the west Australians are doing. With all their mining royalties, they are in no hurry to build a new stadium, though to be sure it is on their agenda. So, will it be so bad for the State that this proposal is defeated by SACA or Legislative Council members and a better idea developed over the next few years – remember there is no FIFA World Cup to bully this through with anymore?

Sure, the Labor Government won’t have a bar of it and The Advertiser will rain invective down on any who dare suggest their stadium emperor may have no clothes but maybe less committed folk will see the merits in doing this right another time.

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