Gabba redevelopment - Brisbane Olympic Stadium - alternative location

Nathan Hildebrandt 17 January, 2023

Gabba Redevelopment - Brisbane Olympic Stadium - Alternative Location

With Brisbane set to host the Olympics in 9 years' time, there have been a lot of people investigating the redevelopment of the Gabba as the Olympic stadium. I have seen a lot of posts on LinkedIn from people putting together design proposals for the Gabba and its connection to the new Cross River Rail Station. With such a big investment in infrastructure, I think it is time to question the location of the stadium relevant to the city and how it relates to other infrastructure around the city. Sadly, there hasn’t been any publicly released content in my networks that truly questions the Gabba’s location and puts forward real alternative options. I thought I would put forward my thoughts on the redevelopment location to hopefully open up a dialogue and potentially have the government not just accept the status quo and really think about the opportunities a full redevelopment provides the city of Brisbane.

I must admit, I am a big Brisbane Lions fan. This passion for AFL has meant that I have travelled across the country to experience game day in several oval-shaped stadiums. It has enabled me to see how great placement of stadiums close to the CBD can provide great opportunities for the stadium to flourish not only during game day.

The Problems with the Gabba Site

The Gabba has a strong historical value, it has been there for over a century. However, the site as a footprint is very tightly constrained between Stanley and Vulture Streets. It also overhangs a historically significant school to the East. This tight footprint means that a lot of the functions included in new stadiums that provide engagement struggle to fit within the footprint. Also, access to public transport now is reliant on buses at the moment, which take up several streets whenever a game is finished. Now that problem will be reduced in a few years’ time when Cross River Rail is finished, but there really isn’t the capacity on site for buses to take people from the stadium, like Lang Park. The distance from the city also makes walking back into the CBD after a game not really a possibility. Even with the construction of the Kangaroo Point Green Bridge, the distance from the city is a big issue.

The reasons the Gabba Site should be used

There are strong reasons for the Gabba site to be redeveloped, including the fact that the site already exists, and there are very few locations close to the Brisbane CBD where a stadium footprint will fit. Cross River Rail will provide a great public transport option for a large number of people attending the stadium.

Other stadium examples

The MCG is positioned within parkland on the Melbourne CBD edge within walking distance of the city, and it has access to trains and trams for public transport. It hosts events of up to 100,000 people and the well-designed urban space around it enables everyone to disburse quickly out of the stadium and back into the city with ease.

Marvel Stadium at the Western end of the Melbourne CBD is even closer to the city and is connected to public transport with a major train station and trams. As a more urban site, it is surrounded by several other types of functions including office spaces and hotels. This site works well because it is a large site, and it doesn’t have the constraints that the site at the Gabba has.

The Adelaide Oval sits just to the North of the Adelaide CBD and is a short walk over the river to the CBD and the train station. It is also situated within a garden setting with gardens and green space to the North and to the West of the stadium.

Optus Stadium in Perth is located to the East of the Perth CBD in a parkland setting. It has direct access to the trains adjacent to the site and is a slightly longer walk back into the CBD across a pedestrian bridge over the Swan River. This site also isn’t constrained too much with green space all around the stadium.

Overall the other stadiums around Australia where Cricket and AFL are played at the highest level are not as constrained for space on their sites compared to the Gabba. The capacity of all the other stadiums is also greater than the Gabba in its current configuration. The stadium for the Olympics is expected to have around 50,000 seats, which is 10,000 more than the current layout. The stands already cantilever over both Stanley and Vulture Streets. With all the site constraints the Gabba site is inferior compared to the other sites across the country.

Other issues that need consideration

In Brisbane, there are a lot of issues currently with housing affordability. There are issues with the lack of affordable housing that is available and issues with the locations of affordable housing. Ideally, affordable housing should be located closer to the inner city so that residents can have good access to public transport and be close to employment opportunities. It is that much of a challenge that the Queensland Government has put in place the Queensland Housing Strategy.[i]

For the duration of the demolition and construction of the Gabba redevelopment both the Brisbane Lions and the Brisbane Heat need to be relocated for a period of 3-4 seasons. Several options have been suggested by various stakeholders, all of which are not perfect solutions, and require investment in upgrading the proposed venues to be ready to host the teams. This investment results in money having to be spent that really doesn’t need to be. Why spend money on sites that will only be used for a few years, and build infrastructure that is not needed long term?

Urban planning initiatives already underway in Brisbane

The Brisbane City Council have converted Victoria Park Golf Course into a new parkland for Brisbane. There is currently a draft master plan for the site, which is great for the city of Brisbane. [ii] I am a fan of green space in the city, but I feel that overall, it is a large site that does not have enough engagement parts on the site for it to get the use that it could get if a major stadium is located on the edge of the parklands, providing a connection to the city.

Another project that is under development is Brisbane Live.[iii] Brisbane Live is an indoor performance venue located over Roma Street Station. This development will provide more investment and engagement with the community on the Eastern edge of the Brisbane CBD.

Victoria Park as the site for the Olympic Stadium

An oval stadium could be located on the Southern edge of the Victoria Park site, bridging over the Inner City Bypass and the Cross River Rail / Exhibition Train Line. By bridging the transport corridor it could provide a land bridge from Spring Hill over to the Victoria Park site, but also make use of space that is otherwise an eyesore.

The site provides walking access back into the city. It also is within walking distance of the Northern Busway and the Cross River Rail (upgraded Exhibition Station). If the stadium includes additional functions and entertainment offerings it could activate Victoria Park further than the current master plan allows.

The constraints of elevation change also could be covered with a pedestrian concourse around the outside of the stadium being at or just below Gregory Terrace on the Spring Hill side. The lower seating bowl could then drop down from that level down to the field level, providing adequate clearance above the ICB and CRR. The impact of the scale of the stadium on Spring Hill is then reduced by a full tier of the stadium while providing connectivity to both Victoria Park and Spring Hill. Access under the first tier of the stadium could be accessed by both Gregory Terrace and a new off-ramp from the East Bound ICC.

Another concept to consider is to include a retractable roof in the design of the stadium. This idea enables all-weather sport and entertainment but also provides an acoustic barrier to the surrounding residential neighbours in Spring Hill.

Brisbane Olympic stadium proposal victoria park

The footprint of the stadium is the same as the MCG.

What would the Gabba site be used for?

With the investment made in CRR already there is a need for a medium to high density of people to use or access the Woolloongabba Station. With all the issues raised above I would suggest the following program be considered. Maintain and keep the Gabba as it is in place till 2032 as a secondary stadium for the Olympics. Therefore no other investment is required in other stadiums is required to temporarily house the current sporting teams. Construct a new stadium at Victoria Park as the new Olympic Stadium. Once the Olympics are over, demolish the Gabba and construct mid-rise affordable housing apartments on the Gabba site. This also enables the potential to expand the existing East Brisbane State School to cater for additional students, another issue that needs addressing in the inner city of Brisbane.

An alternative for consideration if the Gabba must be the site

An alternative that could be considered if the Gabba has to be the site for the new stadium is to build the new stadium over the top of the new Cross River Rail station. That way the current Gabba can stay in place till the new stadium is complete. Then once the new stadium is built, the existing Gabba stadium could be demolished and the commercial facilities that were intended to be located over CRR could be located on the existing Gabba site. Then the school could also expand if needed.


There are a lot of things to consider when selecting a site and a final design for a major sporting facility. As much as I have been thinking about this for a number of months, I may not have considered absolutely everything that needs to be considered. But I think that all the points I have raised should be thought through and critical thinking about the location of the Brisbane 2032 Olympic Stadium needs to be considered as it will be the legacy asset that we end up with afterwards.


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