The Rebuilt Gabba Will Anchor a Big Woolloongabba Makeover with Dining, Shops and Open Space

With the stadium getting torn down and rebuilt for the 2032 Brisbane Olympics, the plan is to transform this inner-city spot just like South Bank after Expo 88.
Sarah Ward
November 24, 2023

Change is coming to Brisbane's inner east, including a big demolition, temporarily relocated sports teams and a brand-new stadium at the end of it. When the the Brisbane Cricket Ground is torn down and rebuilt for the 2032 Brisbane Olympics, it'll also become part of a new Woolloongabba precinct that the Queensland Government hopes that folks will enjoy regardless of whether there's a game on.

Brisbane Lions fans, 2020 AFL grand final attendees, cricket aficionados, anyone who has ever seen a gig at the the Gabba: the spot that you know and love is being flattened, with a new venue taking its place. Brisbanites in general, this part of town will also look a whole lot different. There'll be more dining and retail options, plus open spaces to hang out in. And, the name East Bank has been floated.

Knocking down the Gabba was first floated back in 2021, but with a huge caveat given that it was contingent upon the River City scoring the Olympic Games hosting gig. That was locked in that same year, and then earlier in 2023 Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed the Gabba plans would go ahead. Now, today, Friday, November 24, Deputy Premier Steven Miles has unveiled more details — including what'll be in the stadium, and what the urban renewal project around it will comprise.

The venue will become the main stadium for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2032, and will be rebuilt with that in mind. But it's obviously also a year-round site for other sports events — Aussie rules and cricket use it for an average of 40 weeks a year — so supporting the stadium's long-term professional sports requirements remains a priority. The rebuild will also ensure it still functions as a top-notch entertainment venue, too.

Gabba attendees can look forward to better viewing angles, bigger entries to get in, larger concourses as well, and three new pedestrian bridges outside — two across Main Street, avoiding the traffic lights and linking to the Cross River Rail station, and one over Stanley Street.

Capacity will be increased from the current 42,000 to 50,000 seated and over 70,000 for concerts, while the internal merchandise stores will get a boost, as will dining venues, casual food and beverage outlets, and spaces for members. And, if you've ever tried to find the lifts in the stadium rather than take the stairs, they'll be installed with accessibility in mind. Escalators will also feature.

For athletes and teams, all of the facilities will obviously be shiny and new, including for administration, operations and event-day functions. The Gabba 2.0 will also boast "cutting-edge technology and lighting", the government has announced, so ideally there'll be no more blackouts that disrupt games. Aiming for a six-star green-star rating is another key focus, including via connecting to the broader precinct and its green space.

Surrounding the stadium, Woolloongabba will gain more shops on the streets around the Gabba, plus more places to eat and hang out. With the Gabba as its anchor, the existing Woolloongabba Priority Development Area now spans 106 hectares of the inner-city suburb — and, as it is revamped, the development will also provide more social and affordable housing.

Building a new Gabba was chosen after assessing four options, including a refurbishment of the existing stadium, plus just tearing down and rebuilding part of the Gabba.

To make space for the larger stadium, East Brisbane State School next door will be relocated within two kilometres from December 2025. That said, the heritage buildings within the school won't be torn down — rather, they'll be refurbished and repurposed into the new Gabba.

"The Gabba's 128-year history makes it iconic for Queensland, this redevelopment will ensure a lasting legacy to be enjoyed for another 128 years and beyond. This isn't just about a stadium upgrade. This is about anchoring an urban renewal project that will see Woolloongabba transformed like South Bank was transformed for Expo 88," said the Deputy Premier.

"The Woolloongabba redevelopment, along with Cross River Rail and the Brisbane Metro, will anchor a major redevelopment of Woolloongabba to maximise the benefit of public investment, and deliver more housing including social and affordable housing, more jobs, and better connectivity."

"We could see another 880 or more apartments delivered in the precinct alone, as well as retail and dining. Plus, with at least 50 percent of the precinct set to be open space and a walkable spine from the Gabba to Roma Street via South Bank, there will be more for locals and visitors to enjoy."

If you're an AFL or cricket fiend wondering how long it'll take, the whole Gabba revamp is expected to run over four years, starting in 2026 and welcoming in sports fans again in 2030. Brisbane Lions games and cricket matches will need to move elsewhere, obviously, while the site is out of action. No announcements have been made yet about the other grounds that two sports will use during that time.

The Gabba has been a permanent cricket ground since 1895, and has undergone several revamps over its lifespan to-date, including the refurbishment of its entrances and amenities in 2020.

For more information about the plans for the Gabba, head to the Queensland Government website.

Published on November 24, 2023 by Sarah Ward
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