Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Rann offers $450m to redevelop Adelaide Oval and sucttle opposition promise

THE Rann government is looking to scuttle an opposition election promise of a new city stadium by offering cricket and Australian football $450 million to redevelop Adelaide Oval into a 50,000-seat multipurpose sports facility.

South Australian Cricket Association president Ian McLachlan said it was "staggering" a state government would financially back such a plan at this early stage, while the SA National Football League executive commissioner Leigh Whicker said it was "unprecedented of any state government in Australia to commit upfront $450 million".

The announcement yesterday by Mr Rann came a week after the state Liberal opposition unveiled its plans for a new multipurpose undercover sports stadium seating 50,000.

As South Australia's football and cricket bodies continued to try to reconcile 40 years of animosity over a joint facility, Mr McLachlan and Mr Whicker yesterday warned there were still many hurdles to overcome before there was any deal on Adelaide Oval, including winning acceptance from SACA and SANFL members to turn the historic home of cricket in South Australia into a flash new AFL venue within four years.

While the SANFL and the SACA have signed a memorandum of understanding, any legal agreement will not come before July next year, four months after the March state election.

The plan still leaves Adelaide without an undercover stadium, which the Liberal opposition proposes to build on a railyards site the government has earmarked for a new $1.7 billion city hospital.

Premier Mike Rann yesterday said his plan "guarantees that we cannot only have a world-class hospital in the centre of the city, but a world-class sporting venue as well".

"This is an historic day in South Australian sport -- Adelaide Oval is an icon of this city and this state," Mr Rann said. "Adelaide Oval makes sense for South Australians, rather than building yet another stadium at massive cost."

Treasurer Kevin Foley and AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou said the state's AFL venue at West Lakes would remain as the training base of the Adelaide Crows and be used for SANFL games and pre-season AFL matches, although Attorney-General Michael Atkinson told ABC radio AAMI Stadium could be demolished.

Opposition Leader Isobel Redmond said the government's "scramble to find $450 million for a patch-up job at Adelaide Oval" would ruin its "iconic status".

But federal Sports Minister Kate Ellis, who is in South Africa lobbying for Australia's 2018-22 FIFA World Cup bid, said Adelaide Oval "is a nationally and internationally renowned sporting venue and it is a wise move to invest in the future of this icon of Adelaide".

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