The Adelaide Oval is an historic venue located in the Australian Heritage listed Adelaide Parklands

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The Adelaide Oval is an historic venue located in the Australian Heritage listed Adelaide Parklands. The venue has been an ever-lasting icon for Adelaide, yet why is this the case, how has this happened and what makes it different to other cricket venues around the country. My essay will seek to explain that the Adelaide Oval has four multi-layered themes that can be interpreted from the site. The women's suffrage movement that emphasised the power of this movement with a ladies room, despite other cricket bodies not even allowing women membership of the gentleman’s domain. Other themes identified includes having a stand that showed the drastic change from Adelaide Oval being a ground with revenue being sought primarily from the paying spectators to a stand that was used in order to raise revenue to support the onset of professional sport. While the venue’s collection of stands holding a spirtual connection and value of the 'aura' of the venue rather than valuing the physical remains of the Western Grandstand. It’s a story of Adelaide society at the time and reveals why the venue is treasured not only locally, nationally but also internationally.


"Adelaide Oval's length and odd shaped oval suggests that cycling was largely influential in early Adelaide society. However the shape also is typical of an Athletics venue. A straight down the finish line was on the members side, with a circular outer side. Not only was this design accomodating towards Cycling, but also Athletics. Furthermore looking at the plans produced for the 2001 Conservation Plan of the Adelaide Oval, prior to 1880 the venue had a different ground circumfrance. Indeed it was the popularity of Australian Rules Football and Cycling that had influenced the change in shape. The drastic change in only five years, shows the lengths they were prepared to take to accommodate sport far better than what Cycling and Australian Rules Football had at equivalent venues such as the SCG and the WACA.

This delivers an impression of a ground for 'all' sports and that Adelaide Oval was not the exclusive domain of cricket and Australian Rules Football, despite SACA holding managerial rights at the ground.


This differs to the WACA Ground in Perth as the size of the land holdings was significantly larger than Adelaide Oval. It also was in a position to host athletics, trotting Australian Rules Football and Cycling. The ground shape was circular and would be two ovals back to back, even into the 1970’s.It was forced to sell some of its land to survive at consistent points of its history due to one not having the regular income stream of Test Cricket until 1977 and also not delivering an image of a ground for 'all sports'.


In 2009 the SACA are redeveloping the ground and will reconfigure the ground so it is more applicable for the sports that are most popular in Adelaide, Australian Rules Football, Cricket and Association Football. Cycling and Athletics no longer hold relevance for a major sporting facility in Adelaide. Thus the archaeology of the ground delivers a wider historical archaeological understanding of how society now values other sporting pursuits more than Cycling and Athletics, which now are not considered when looking at the playing dimensions of a ground.


The seating of the members on the square wicket is different to those at the 4 other major cricket venues in Australia, delivering further understanding of the influence of cycling on the shape of Adelaide Oval


The historical record would have concentrated on cricket being the most influential sport to have played at Adelaide Oval, due to it having been the home of SACA since 1871. This was one of the reasons why I paid little attention to the archives of the SACA, because I believe a stadium tells us more about society than the biases held by the venue manager.


Expansion of the ground in the 1920's reflect the economic prosperity of Australia at the time, Adelaide Oval reflects an expansion in economic growth, yet not a visible expansion of architectural diversion. Rather extending the stands to cater for growth in population. It also shows a maintenance of the same cultural values from 1884 to the 1920s in terms of entertainment for those high up in society.


Moreton Bay Fig Trees at the southern end of Adelaide Oval represents an indication that other grounds such as Perth Oval had been influenced by Adelaide Oval, in which represents a stance that it held an influential role in Stadium Architecture in Australia in the early part of Federation. North Sydney Oval had Moreton Bay Fig Trees planted in a lane outside its venue in the 1890's. It seems to be very much a style of the times for inner city venues in the capital cities. And you can suggest that due to isolation, the resulting design plan for Perth Oval had looked at inner city venues such as North Sydney and Adelaide Oval. The Moreton Bay Fig Trees at Adelaide Oval  had been planted in 1889 (Adelaide Oval tour) indeed this had occured after the construction of the embankments. The embankments had been constructed with the use of a zig-zag railway on the southern mound, not a horse and cart as the SACA tour guides like to explain. However it delivers an impression that crowd growth warranted the expense of upgrading the capacity of the venue.

Adelaide Oval as part of the wider Adelaide Parklands is on the National Heritage Register. The packaging of Aboriginality within the National Heritage listing brands Indigenous Australians as reconciliation gimmicks if it only sends the message of ‘paintin and dancin’ and excludes the realities of the full Indigenous experience connected to the Adelaide Oval space (Godwell 1999). In other words sporting spaces such as the Adelaide Oval cannot be dealt with as though they are merely passive and abstract arenas on which events occur.  Accordingly the history of the parklands shows that it was initially a quarry that would deliver significant revenue to the colony. It was not until trees had been replanted and land had been delivered to the SACA in 1871 for the development of Adelaide Oval. Indeed the cultural context of the time suggests that the granting of the land had been delivered to occupy land that had previously been quarried and had been decimated of its original environment. This context is widely differential to the context surrounding the delivery of land to the WACA. The importance of Adelaide Oval in its site election is also important. It was developed as a key social fabric tool of the city and today it is a key attraction in South Australia's tourist advertising caimpaign.
This is different to the WACA in which the government gave it a 999 year lease on marsh/swamp land that at the time nobody else would want or could actually use - due to the dampness of the venue. While the WACA is serviced by free transit, the relationship between government and ground has been much more acrimonious then the relationship between government authorities and the Adelaide Oval. Ground Development applications are normally approved, while the WACA has been forced to develop the venue off its limited revenue streams, with many rejected development applications.


Australian Rules Football also had prevalence on the situation of the members area on the wing, yet it does not explain the straight boundary on the western side of the ground. For cycling to have influenced the design shape over Australian Rules Football and Cricket shows a strong divergence from how cycling was accomodated in other cities around the country. It also reflects the relative strength of cycling as a recreational pursuit in South Australia compared to the rest of the country.


The Bradman Stand in 1990 is a case study of the influence of professionalism and how World Series Cricket had influenced the need for Adelaide Oval to become more corporate and develop new streams of money for the game. It is one of only a few stands that where built in 1990 around Australia and thus the grandstand gives a unique insight into how the venue has moved with the times. The demolition of the previous stand on the site in 1989 the John Creswell Stand, shows how professionalism had been no match for history. In hindsight it delivers an accurate cultural understanding of the ideology of many sports fans who believe sport has died in the new age of professionalism. The desire to win and to become profitable outweighing history, prestige and honour of the sport. The Bradman Stand and the site it is situated on becomes the only artifact still present on the major Australian cricket venues on the dramatic cultural change within sport in Australia. Thus Adelaide Oval is significant on a global level of architecture influenced by professionalism.


This is confirmed with the new development proposal on the Western Grandstand, in order to stay relevant for South Australians into the future, they will re-develop the grandstand as sports demand more corporate facilities as well as for any possible Australian World Cup bid in 2018/2022. The plans suggest that they are building with foresight in mind, just as they had done with the Griffen Stand in 1872.


Smoking ventilators that are incorporated within the roof of the western grandstand shows how Adelaide Oval which used to accomodate smoking in the venue has now outlawed it, with people being forced to smoke behind the Chappel Stands at a Sheffield Shield game I attended in February.


There is also windows situated at the back of the western grandstand, showing that it had understood the heat of summer and had used natural ventilation to cool the customers down, understanding how hot it would be under a tin roof.


 A sightscreen that is located within the ground, rather then on the fenceline shows the dominance of cricket. All the other venues in Australian cricke that had held AFL football had eventually put the sightscreen on the fence, rather then inside the boundar. Adelaide Oval not holding the elite AFL competition reflects in the sightscreen location.


However the length being longer than other grounds in Australian Cricket is probably more significant in why the ground has a sightscreen within the playing surface. Safety concerns has now made ropes a mandate at all cricket grounds around the world, at 191m the sightscreen would be too far behind the rope and it would be ineffective.


The Chappell Hadlee Stands was the first development at Adelaide Oval since 1990 which happened to be the beginning of professional sport. The design caused controversy because it altered the red roof/red brick style that had not only influenced the culture at Adelaide Oval, but the respective state teams that have played out of Adelaide Oval. The design with the canvas roof had been taken from the GABBA redevelopment, which had pioneered this more cost effective style of covering. Presently the new rectangular stadium in Melbourne is being constructed with the same canvas material, with the new development of the Western Grandstand at Adelaide Oval to use the same material as the Chappel Hadlee Stands. The material again shows that Adelaide Oval’s design is still influential at a national level.


The Adelaide City Council recently forced changes to the plan at Adelaide Oval, because it wanted less commercialism of the scoreboard. There was a trade off in which the council passed the plans, with the SACA agreeing to take down advertising from the scoreboard. Yet at the same time the council has approved the virtual destruction of the old grandstand, with little community opposition. It shows us the community attitudes towards the scoreboard, which has a bar inaugurated within it, holds a great more relevance and sense of place than that of the grandstand.

The identification that Adelaide has with the scoreboard, which was built in 1912 would come as a public meeting place, rather than the snobbery that is often common place and a sense of 'exclusivity' and 'prestige' of being a member. It indicates that Adelaide Oval is as much a ground for the commoner than it is as a ground for the members, directly in contrast to the view of the WACA ground which was a ground for members and primarily cricket, rather then a ground for all of Perth.


The landlord being the Adelaide City Council would envoke a close affiliation in that all development was being developed in terms of the interest of the city and in turn the state. The WACA which owns the land and the ground has no higher authority to answer to. This allows them to pursue specific agenda only positions that are to the benefit of their organisation, while the Adelaide City Council which owns Adelaide Oval, have a vested interest in how the ground accurately portrays the life and history of sport in Adelaide and in a wider context South Australia.  Which also contrasts to the WACA, in which the ground has been built and sold in terms of the primary interest of cricket.


 Lighting at the Adelaide Oval shows a cataclysmic relationship between the society and the reality of professional sport. While they had allowed for the development of the Bradman Stand, a fierce public backlash on putting lights at the ground had come from a traditional context of it ruining the aura and the charm of the Adelaide Oval. Yet it had accepted the demolition of the John Creswell Stand. It delivers a wider historical context on what modern day Adelaideans value in heritage management. A stand is not as important as the memories of the players rooms at Adelaide Oval(The Age 2nd February 2009), or whether or not you can see St Peters Cathedral. The historical value is based on individual experiences today, not in valuing the various events that have constructed this history.


History is not as important as whether it strikes at the wider issue of whether cricket as a game should be played at night time in Adelaide, or whether it should maintain the conservative cultural acceptance of daytime cricket. The scoreboard for the City of Adelaide who are the landholders was more important than the ventilation prevalent in the western grandstand to be preserved as an historical artefact.


This highlights a different attitude to what was happening in Perth. In 1987 the WA State Government had constructed what are regarded as the largest, most imposing light towers in Australia, if not the world. This was done as part of an agreement for night games to be played at the WACA. The AFL signed a 15 year contract that expired and was not renewed in 2002. This was done in terms of uniting the competing sports of cricket and Australian Rules Football and rationalising it by playing night games at the WACA, rather then Subiaco Oval. The WACA would mean the lights were used by a multiple amount of sports, baseball, Rugby League, Soccer, AFL and Cricket. Had the funding been directed to the Eagles home ground in Subiaco Oval it would have been used for 6 months of the year. Perth as a city is always trying to prove to the world that it is the state of excitement, that it has energy, money and audacity. It is a city of the modern world. The lights at the WACA reflect the confidence that has enveloped the states entrepeneurial and sometimes shady past.


The WACA had the sporting history very much like Adelaide Oval, but the dominance of AFL in the sporting culture of both states has now seen ground development minimised for a cricket only venue, while the Adelaide Oval being the historic home for Australian Rules Football will maintain strong influence in the cities sporting culture in the years ahead. From 2002 onwards the WACA was designed to cater for rectangular sports, but the Force and Glory both rejected overtures to move to the ground, settling for the government venue which was largely built in spite against the WACA, to force ground rationalisation in Perth. This has had little effect and the WACA now understand that into the future they are a venue that will only hold cricket.


 Adelaide Oval has various historic items that are located in their ground, including various gender specific rooms that dominate the venue. While it does show gender discrimination, with very small room, no outside view of the venue and somewhat of a baby sitting room while their gentleman husband where in the larger room across the hallway. The historical record shows that the ladies room was extended in 1889, at a cost of 1400 pounds. (National Heritage Register Database:Adelaide Oval)


South Australia was the first state of Australia that delivered woman the right to vote. A ladies room is significant as it shows that females not only caimpaigned for the right to vote, but also that power was used in all facets of society, including in the upper eschelons of society. The link between the women's temperance movement and construction of a ladies room become all the more visible when the Women's Temperance Union was formed in 1886 in which it actively caimpaigns for women's suffrage. (SA Parliament:Women’s Suffrage) In the year the extensions to the ladies room was completed in the George Giffen Stand there was also a bill that went to parliament for universal womens suffrage, despite it being initall rejected , until it was initially passed for South Australian women who became the first in Australia, the second in the world to vote and the only place in the world that would also allow for females to be elected to both houses of parliaments. (National Heritage Database) I would argue that the construction of a ladies room, which would have been frequented by the upper eschelons of society, plays a key role in organisation of the Woman's Suffrage movement that would have been aided in the contacts with other wives of VIP's. In a parochial environment, the links to the Ladies Room and women's suffrage have been very much disregarded in the historical record, but through the archaeological record, the significance of a room for ladies that was constructed in 1889 (, not only shows the strength of the Woman's suffrage movement within the SACA, but how it has aided the development of the rights to vote for South Australians woman.

Indeed the importance of Adelaide Oval is that the venue indicates the power of women within South Australia. It delivers importance not only on a national stage, but on an international stage. In terms of a physical cultural reminder of the Women's suffrage movement, it is one of only a few to survive.  The SCG ladies stand,  which was completed 2 years after South Australian women where granted the right to vote indicates the liberation of women and the acceptance into sporting stadia around the country. The archaeological value of the Ladies Room is a key cultural site of the womans suffrage movement.


The history of the site links back to the original occupants of the land to today. The reason for choosing this site was in order to deliver an archaeological interpretation on the site and how it has linked into the wider culture of the environment in South Australia and specifically Adelaide. How the style of the stand encouraged patrons to smoke within the stands in the early part of the 20th century to today when smokers have to go behind the Chappell Stands to smoke. How the venue was built in order to protect patrons from the wind and also so that the members/public within the stand would not have to endure a day in the heat. This has been a legacy that has been followed by Hindmarsh Stadium and Football Park with the corporates and stadium members located on the western side of both grounds.


 The other enduring cultural difference is the strong Aboriginal links towards the ground. On a ground tour of the Adelaide Oval, it was noted that the earth colours, that looked like mythical serpents on the seats of the grandstand had been influenced by Ian Chappell who had wanted the stands to have a cultural linkage to the original occupants of the land. The Chappell Stands also had to be constructed in order to maintain the outlooks to St Peters Cathedral, the Adelaide Hills and the parklands, any blockage of these views would be 'degrading' the character of the ground according to the SACA tour guide. It thus delivers an interesting observation on the values that the council and the wider Adelaide public value. The structure and how the stand looks is far less important than the general vicinity that surrounds the complex.


However when you look at it being a sacred site for the Kaurna people, the emphasis on the over-arching value of the site, rather than the buildings make sense. The venue, despite it valuing the views of a colonial past, has tapped into the overall sacredness of the venue for both the European and Indigenous societies. I agree with Rigney and Hemming

"The packaging of Aboriginality in this manner potentially brands Indigenous Australians as reconciliation gimmicks if it only sends the message of ‘paintin and dancin’ and excludes the realities of the full Indigenous experience connected to the Adelaide Oval space (Godwell 1999).

In other words sporting spaces such as the Adelaide Oval cannot be dealt with as though they are merely passive and abstract arenas on which events occur."

However I would suggest this essay expands a ground as not just a venue in which sport occurs, but the wider cultural understanding of the ground. I would argue that the spiritual connection towards the environmental factors at Adelaide Oval highlight a linkage to the cultural value of the environment that many Indigenous Australians use to tell their history. It is a site that holds a particular level of sacredness for both socities and that despite the removal of the Kaurna tribe’s meeting place, the historical interest from those in Adelaide replicates a similar societal trait with the venue holding more importance from the aura of the surroundings rather than the physical cultural remains.


Adelaide Oval is located on a place where Kaurna people celebrated life through public ceremonies, games, religious observances and other social activities (Hemming 2001).

The history of Adelaide Oval does not allow for the construction of what happened prior to arrival, the site was not only used for quarries but also was used as a significant site for Aboriginal Australia. Indeed even in the National Australian Heritage Listing of the Adelaide Parklands, the reluctance to add Aboriginal values to the site is startling. The connection between the culture of Aboriginal society and european society I believe in the aura of Adelaide Oval and the value of the individual has been far more pronounced than what is written in the historical documents.
Despite the view of colonial prowess creating a false sense of nationality, the history is largely made up of the spiritual connection sportsman, administrators and fans have in their connection to the physical 'european colonial' environment. This exemplifies that the Aboriginal history of the area has influenced how the wider South Australian community values its history. The spiritual connection to the ground is unique in the wider context of Australian sporting venues. Adelaide Oval replicates its historical understanding through the aura of the venue, rather than the buildings on top of it, much like the Kaurna people would see the river and location in a spiritual manner, far more valuable than what sort of bridge architecture is used to cross that river.


My argument on the archaeological interpretation has been bracketed in three main themes. I have argued that despite the loss of ownership and control of the land by the Kaurna people, the way in which Adelaide and the rest of the nation values the site is based on the spiritual rather than the physical construction of buildings on the land. This is emphasised by the debate on permanent lights, the commercialisation of the scoreboard, the desire to maintain a visual outlook towards St Peters Cathedral, the Adelaide Hills and the parklands in order to retain the 'aura and the value of the Adelaide Oval landscape'. The destruction of the 1920's grandstands for a new  modern venue has been allowed to proceed, with little opposition. The cultural landscape features such as smoking ventilators on top of the roof, which adapted to the needs of smokers during the 1920's and the location of air vents located on the western side of the grandstand to both reduce sunlight and to take advantage of any summer sea breeze. The stand was also on the finishing straight for cycling. The spatial landscape of the ground that showed the power of cycling and Australian Rules Football to alter the ground dimensions, despite it being a venue managed by the South Australian Cricket Association. This physical history will also be altered with the development that has started in March 2009, that had little community opposition. I link the cultural interpretation of the venue and the value society has with the continued occupation of land by the Kaurna people. My second over-arching theme of Adelaide Oval, is the significance this has on the role of woman in cricket, role of woman in society, and the role of woman in their fight for universal suffrage. The room despite being small, would have been a networker for other women married to men of high eschelon and the fact it was built within the cricket venue in 1889 shows the power of woman within South Australia. It also leads to the development of another facility the Ladies Stand in Sydney, in 1896, two years after woman had been granted the right to vote and be elected to parliament in South Australia, the cultural landscape had been transformed to another significant ground in the country the SCG. Thus showing the importance of the ladies room not only for South Australia, but Australia. Lastly the other theme that I identify is how the Bradman Stand as a stand is one of the few examples of a stand at the onset of professiona sport in Australia. This stand is one of the first, if not the first that shows the new demands of modern cricket. A ground that had little corporate facilities, had to demolish a stand - the Creswell stand at the very onset, because of the new demands on professional sport. It delivered a crucial juxtaposition next to the stands that had been left untouched since the 1920's until recently on the rise of cricket from amateur level to professionalism.

Upon visiting the Adelaide Oval the physical stands deliver an amazing understanding of wealth in the Australian society and the effects of professionalism on the Australian Sporting landscape. The 1880's was the time of the gold rush with the George Giffen Stand being constructed due to the rise in population and wealth, the completion of the extension of the George Giffen Stand and the construction of the John Creswell Stand in the 1920's was also during the Roaring Twenties. In contrast the Bradman Stand was built during the recession of the late 80's early 90's, but at the beginning of professionalism and after the success of World Series cricket. While the recent redevelopment shows the competitiveness in stadia design and the need to over ride history, in order to maintain its role as the home of sport in South Australia, with the ground adapting to other sports that hold more popularity within society such as Rugby and Soccer, just as they had done in the 1880's when they looked at accomodating cricket, despite the venue being operated by SACA.

My Research


Most of the information collected for this assignment relates to doing a tour of the Adelaide Oval before demolition of the grandstand and other facilities within Adelaide Oval. This was done because the archaeological survey of the ground had obviously been overlooked in all previous historic understandings of the venues utilisations.It was for this reason why the essay concentrates on the interpretation of the ground. As such I have concentrated on documents that have aided in particular to the architectural design and the spatial dimensions of the ground. With the ground being developed around the same time as the surge in cycling and Australian Rules Football. The architectural plans that had been incorporated into the Conservation Plan outline the changes that cycling and Australian Rules football had in forcing a reshape of the ground from a traditional style english cricket ground suited more to rectangular sports to a venue that more suited Australian Rules Football and Cricket.

This rapid change supports my argument that cycling's influence on Adelaide Oval was evidently large. The influence of both cycling and Australian Rules Football had resulted in the members section of the Adelaide Oval being on the square wicket side of the ground rather than behind the wicket which is common for most cricket grounds around the world.


The historical documents and the conservation plan refer briefly to economic situations within Adelaide, but little documentation has referred to this in any official historical documentation.


The most information I have delivered to support my argument is the strength of cycling and the history that is associated with the important archaeological record. Sport being a largely male dominated sport also impacts upon the understandings that are gathered from the impact on the women's suffrage movement, thus records can be largely inaccurate, while information such as ventilators aiding smokers are insignificant to the historical record, but show the great change in social habits.


My interpretation delivers a new understanding of Adelaide Oval, in that it reflects more about society than just another cricket ground. The bibliography has most sources as poltical documents rather than historical documents, as the interpretation was about telling a new story, with comparisons to the WACA and other sporting venues to highlight the cultural differences in place.



Adelaide Oval Conservation Plan Review, Swanbury Penglase Architects, 2001
Adelaide Oval Tour Guide
Adelaide Oval and surrounds, Department of the Environment, Arts and heritage, Australian Heritage Database;search=keyword%3DAdelaide%2520Oval%3Bkeyword_PD%3Don%3Bkeyword_SS%3Don%3Bkeyword_PH%3Don%3Blatitude_1dir%3DS%3Blongitude_1dir%3DE%3Blongitude_2dir%3DE%3Blatitude_2dir%3DS%3Bin_region%3Dpart;place_id=19236, accessed 2009
-Australian Stadiums, , accessed 2009
Bradis George, Minister for the Arts and Sport, 8th May 2007$25_million_for_the_redevelopment_of_adelaide_oval/, accessed 2009

City of Adelaide Heritage Study, State Heritage Branch, Dept of

Planning and Development.
Hemming.S Rigney.D Adelaide Oval: a postcolonial ‘site’?, Borderlands E Journal, Volume 2, No 1 2003
Sumerling, Patricia, ‘A Social History of Adelaide’s Park Lands, unpublished report to the City of

Adelaide Council, Adelaide, 2004.

South Australian Parliament, Women Granting the Right to Vote,, accessed 2009








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