Plan for $150 million redevelopment of Memorial Drive to create multi-sport centre, bring back big-name tennis

8 January 2018

A NEW 6000-seat, canopy-covered stadium proposed as part of a $150 million redevelopment of Memorial Drive would bring big-time tennis including Davis Cup back to Adelaide and complete the Riverbank sporting precinct.

The Advertiser can exclusively reveal Tennis SA’s plans for a multi-purpose arena it believes can host other sports including basketball, netball and boxing, concerts and other events for up to 100 days a year.

The current Memorial Drive tennis centre has been described as “tired”, does not meet international requirements for hosting Davis Cup or professional tournaments, and is only used for hosting events such as the World Tennis Challenge, which starts tonight, for 10 days a year.

The Federal Government has committed $10 million for Tennis SA to upgrade its outside courts to include world-class grass, clay and hard court facilities, but the total cost of the redevelopment is estimated at $125-150 million.

Premier Jay Weatherill said the plans are exciting but he is skeptical of the $150 million pricetag.

“We saw with interest the plans that were unveiled in today’s paper,” Mr Weatherill said.

“They are exciting plans. We think they are a bit underdone in terms of price. We think that the pricetag for such a redevelopment would be many hundreds of millions of dollars, not the $150 million that’s been suggested.”

“It’s a nice idea. Where it fits in with our priorities, you’ll see as we make our election commitments.”

Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley said that the redevelopment would be “a big step forward for tennis”. “There is a need for a 21st century facility that can be filled with new, fresh content,” Mr Tiley said.

“We are really excited by this project and for what it would mean to the sport and for tennis fans in South Australia. We believe that with facilities such as these unveiled today, Adelaide can gain international prominence on the global tennis calendar.”

Tennis SA chief executive Steve Baldas says he has had “positive discussions” with both sides of politics in SA but neither has made a financial commitment to helping fund the project.

It’s hoped the overhaul will bring Davis Cup matches, led by captain Lleyton Hewitt, to Adelaide as well as a major tournament like the Brisbane and Sydney internationals.

“It’s fantastic for tennis and for South Australia, it’s a great opportunity and a chance to complete the Riverbank and Adelaide Oval sporting precinct, and bring major professional tennis back to South Australia,” Mr Baldas said.

“We’ve been looking at it for 10 years in terms of recognising that something needs to be done with Memorial Drive.

“It’s the spiritual home for tennis in South Australia. Our 50,000 players who play on a regular basis get a thrill to play here but it is tired and doesn’t enable us to compete for these major events.

The State Government and Opposition have been very positive, they see it as a good project for the state and when you look at what’s on the table, it makes it very attractive.

“We have an opportunity to bring Davis Cup, ATP and WTA events to Adelaide. If we don’t take that opportunity and miss securing that, it would be a real shame.”

Artist’s impressions show a canopy-covered arena with air flow and plans include window archways and ivy to link with the heritage of Adelaide Oval.

Mr Baldas said the venue would be used for a range of sport and community events.

“It’s our vision for the site, (but) from here to turning of the sod, it really is open for discussion to find the right solution,” he said. “Clearly this is a tennis venue and significant international content would be brought back, but this design has flexibility for other uses. It will become another creative community space in the Riverbank.

“What has been done so far is fantastic with a large 50,000-seat stadium (Adelaide Oval) for big events, a fantastic convention centre for business, and what we would bring is a space for 6000-plus for many different uses.

“We believe there would be at least 100 days of content (at the stadium), sporting events like tennis, netball, basketball, squash, beach volleyball, boxing, whatever that size would appeal to. There could be open-air concerts, Fringe Festival events, it’s such a good, flexible space in the heart of the riverbank.”

The Government and Opposition would not commit funds when approached by The Advertiser.

Sport Minister Leon Bignell said the Government backed sport at all levels.

“The proposal from Tennis Australia is one of a range of sporting facility projects presented to the Government and we will continue to work with Tennis SA and Tennis Australia,” Mr Bignell said.

Opposition sports spokesman Corey Wingard said the tennis upgrade was among competing priorities.

“We can see there is great upside (to the Memorial Drive project) but that’s just one of a list of facilities that needs work,” he said. “We were very supportive of phase one and we would be keen to have discussions about the next phase.”