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July 14, 2017

Transforming Adelaide Oval

Week in and week out, the Adelaide Oval is broadcast across Australia into the homes of AFL fans, but as we discover – it's good for more than just a game.

  • SA Government & CityMag

It’s no secret that the redevelopment of Adelaide Oval has been great for AFL attendance numbers and the city at large.

Manager of Major Events, Lesley Magill

“Since AFL matches moved to the CBD attendances have almost doubled, revenue for accommodation is up by more than a third and room nights have increased by 25 per cent,” Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, Stephen Mullighan, says.

But the beauty of the “jewel in the crown of the revitalised Adelaide Riverbank precinct”, is its adaptability, as CityMag discovered while tracking the set-up of the multi-purpose venue’s recent Nitro Circus event.

“This is the second time that we’ve had Nitro Circus at the Oval, so second time around an event’s always a lot easier to manage,” says Lesley Magill – Adelaide Oval’s Manager of Major Events.

The adaptability of this facility means it serves a variety of SA audiences

“We’ve always been really set on not being just a cricket and football stadium and wanting to have some content that, no matter what you’re interested in, there’d be something to come and check out.”

From the perspective of the operations staff at Adelaide Oval, Nitro Circus is a welcome scale down; the event only aimed for a 15,000-head crowd, rather than the Oval’s usual 50,000.

But that’s not to say it isn’t still a huge amount of work.

“We’ve probably been talking for three or four months, particularly with these types of events,” Stadium Operations Manager, Sharon Stephens, says.

Some may balk at motorbikes tearing it up out in the middle but Minister Mullighan is quick to highlight the economic impact these extra events have made.

New sportspeople descend on Adelaide’s sacred patch of grass

Adelaide Oval Turf Manager, David Egan

“More than 5 million people have attended events since the $535m upgrade was completed,” he says continuing, “and conservative estimates suggest it has created the equivalent of 700 jobs, generating more than $150m in wages,” says Minister Mullighan.

For Ops Manager Sharon the most important thing to ensure smooth transformations between the regular football and cricket content is communication. “Bringing your staff in and talking to them is so important, because at the end of the day, they’re the people who actually roll out the event for you,” says Sharon.

The kitchen is abuzz in preparation, security teams meet and discuss their layout, and as the production crew builds scaffolding over the grass, measures are taken to ensure little damage is done to the sacrosanct Adelaide Oval grass that will host an AFL game two days later.

“Our preparation for Nitro Circus started one – when it was announced, and then two – [when we saw] whether we had a game on the Saturday or the Sunday,” says Turf Manager, David Egan.

“We don’t anticipate there being any major issues, where for a concert, like Adele or Guns and Roses, that’s six months in the planning of what we’re going to do.”

It’s a heavy weight of responsibility that David carries with the rest of the groundskeeping team, and despite the many grand advancements of the Oval, the hallowed turf is still a major focus for sporting crowds.

“It’s definitely a big job, and a stressful job, because you’re always on show to the public. Nearly every event we have is on TV, so it’s broadcast nationally,” David says.

“It is a multi-purpose venue, it’s not just a sporting oval anymore, [so] a lot of planning goes into preparation for your big events.”

As the crowd files into the venue and the hum of bikes spills over the stadium’s walkable roofline, behind the scenes the staff are braced and ready to welcome their awaiting masses, be it for football, motorbike stunts, or Guns n’ Roses.

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