Queensland premier Steven Miles rejects plan for multibillion-dollar Olympic stadium in Brisbane


<span>Queensland premier Steven Miles says Suncorp Stadium will be used for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2032 Brisbane Olympic Games.</span><span>Photograph: Darren England/AAP</span>

Queensland premier Steven Miles says Suncorp Stadium will be used for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2032 Brisbane Olympic Games.Photograph: Darren England/AAP

The Queensland premier, Steven Miles, has sensationally rejected an independent recommendation for a multibillion-dollar Olympic stadium in Victoria Park.

The former Brisbane lord mayor Graham Quirk, who was commissioned to conduct a 60-day review by the state government in January, recommended a planned $2.7bn knockdown and rebuild of the Gabba cricket ground, be scrapped.

Instead he recommended an even more expensive project, a $3.4bn new stadium in inner-city Victoria Park.

But Miles has instead endorsed a cheaper plan, proposed by the Olympics boss, John Coates. He recommended using existing infrastructure; Suncorp Stadium for the opening and closing ceremonies and the Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre (QSAC) in Nathan for athletics. QSAC hosted the Commonwealth Games in 1982.

Related: Brisbane v the Olympics: Gabba shambles shows people power is hitting the 2032 Games

“Suncorp stadium will become our Olympic stadium,” Miles said on Monday.

“When Queenslanders are struggling with other costs, I cannot justify spending $3.4bn on a new stadium.

”I’m ruling that out.”

Miles confirmed more than half a billion dollars of existing funding would go towards upgrading the Gabba but the venue would not be fully accessible for those with disabilities.

“There isn’t an option that delivers full accessibility, full disability access, other than … demolition,” he said.

Cost was the main concern behind the premier’s decision to launch the review, with the planned $7bn Olympics infrastructure pipeline causing a public backlash at the sheer expense, likely to blow out further due to continued inflation in the construction industry.

The government does not believe it would be possible to build the stadium within the existing agreed funding, arguing that the project would violate the “new norm” rules imposed on the Brisbane 2032 games that all venues either already exist or be planned.

Instead it will investigate upgrades to QSAC and Suncorp.

Asked whether Queenslanders were still excited about the Olympic Games, Miles said “it varies”.

“Of course it varies [depending on] where in the state you are, who you’re talking to, and how much they’re struggling,” he said.

Quirk examined the Nathan proposal, but considered the idea not value for money. He also criticised the site for being poorly served by public transport.

“To do a QSAC arrangement would cost around $1.6bn with very little legacy,” he told media on Monday.

The project would cost about $600m to rebuild the existing 14,000 capacity grandstand, plus more to bring it to the required 40,000 seats. Quirk said the site had difficult terrain and would ultimately cost about $1.5bn, plus another billion to refurbish the “tired” Gabba to serve cricket and AFL.

The review argued that the Gabba’s site “constrained on all sides by … major inner-city-roads” is a crucial flaw. It is also not disability compliant, being about 200 accessible seats short, and lacks back-of-house space for competitors and staff. It argued the Victoria Park stadium should serve as a complete replacement, with the Gabba knocked down and turned into parkland once finished.

“If you’re a young child in a wheelchair that can’t enter the grounds with the other kids for a kick or a play for the game, it’s a very, very bad stadium,” Quirk said.

“You would still, after a rebuild, not end up with a tier-one stadium.”

The state government now plans what it calls a more modest enhancement of the existing grounds. East Brisbane state school will not need to vacate its current site by the end of 2025, though it may be displaced by future works.

“One of their recommendations would have meant the demise of the Gabba, which is something we couldn’t accept for such a beloved venue,” Miles said.

“Victoria Park is highly valued by the community, and we have no plans to spend billions of dollars to encroach into that green space,” the infrastructure minister, Grace Grace, said.

Meanwhile, the LNP opposition refused to take a position on the new plan on Monday.

The deputy leader, Jarrod Bleijie, said that if elected the party would go back to the drawing board and ask a planned independent infrastructure authority to make a plan.

Bleijie said Miles had repeatedly “stuffed up” planning for the Games as minister responsible for Olympics infrastructure under premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, and was again causing “chaos and crisis”.

“Steven Miles has botched this. This is costing Queenslanders billions of dollars,” he said.

‘A $7bn spend on facilities’

The government has accepted dozens more recommendations covering smaller-scale venues, including scrapping the planned Brisbane Arena, which was to be constructed above the Roma Street railway station.

Instead the venues review recommended spending $2.5bn on a 15,000-seat arena about 500 metres away, at Roma Street Parkland.

Quirk also recommended a planned 15,000-seat Toowoomba soccer ground be cancelled due to a lack of long-term benefit from the project and a planned sports precinct at Albion be shifted to Boondall or Zillmere.

Related: The path to re-election for Queensland Labor looks like a narrowing goat track after its ‘Super Saturday’ losses

He recommended few changes to numerous other planned projects, which he said should proceed as quickly as possible.

“People have got to stop talking about this being a $7bn Olympic spend, it is not. It is a $7bn spend on facilities that are needed by the Queensland community,” Quirk said.

A longtime booster of the Olympics, Quirk conducted the review alongside the New South Wales public service bureaucrat Ken Kanofski and Michelle Morris, a director of a firm that specialises in running events, including at several Olympics.

The government plans to complete due diligence on venues in the coming months, followed by construction.

More than 900 submissions were received during the review, while the panel held 130 meetings, assessed numerous studies and conducted 28 site visits.

The proposal was presented to the government on Friday. Cabinet considered it on Monday.



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