Adelaide Oval is widely regarded as the most picturesque Test cricket ground in the world with the northern aspect featuring St Peter’s Cathedral rising behind the elegant Edwardian scoreboard.
Centrally located on War Memorial Drive and nestled in the northern city parklands, the Oval is within walking distance of the city; a five minute stroll from the O’Connell and Melbourne Street restaurant precincts and is less than a 15-minute drive from the Adelaide International Airport. It can accommodate close to 34,000 patrons for football matches and about 32,000 patrons for cricket matches.
The Oval’s distinctive Moreton Bay figs were planted in the 1890s and remain a historical backdrop to the northern end of play, as does the Edwardian scoreboard which was designed by architect Kenneth Milne and erected in 1911. The grassed mounds at the southern and northern ends (“the Hills”) were created in 1898 when earth was carted from the banks of the River Torrens.
Adelaide Oval’s surface is the one of the most acclaimed playing arenas in the worlds as noted by players, administrators and enthusiasts. In 2006-07, the playing surface underwent an $820,000 upgrade. The field was laser levelled, irrigation and drainage was installed and new drought resistant Santa Anna couch planted.
The Oval is now a truly level playing surface. SACA's head curator Damian Hough replaced the retiring Les Burdett in June. Often working under intense scrutiny, Damian and his team have prepared grounds for cricket, AFL, SANFL finals series, soccer and Rugby League.
Adelaide Oval is a long narrow ground with deep pockets (when thinking in Australian football terms) and a shape resembling a capital D. This is due largely to the cycling track that graced the Oval more than 100 years ago. In those days the track was on the edge of the grass and the picket fence separated spectators from the riders. The straight boundary was the finishing straight which ran in front of the vice-regal enclosure located at the top of the wrought iron stairs in the George Giffen Stand.
Cycling ceased in 1910 and the picket fence was transferred to the edge of the grass at that time. The Oval’s short square boundaries and deep pockets will be reshaped as part of the western grandstand redevelopment. The newly curved western perimeter will bring fans in the north-west and south west corners of the ground 12-15 metres closer to the action and will remove the “impossible kick” for goal from the pockets. Only very few seats will be lost from the middle (approximately 280) while an additional 1,250 will be gained in the newly curved pockets. Ovalising is necessary in order to be able to accommodate a variety of sports and be more competitive nationally and internationally. The ovalising of the field will create a playing surface that is consistent with the SCG and Telstra Dome.
The home of cricket and host of major sporting and entertainment events Adelaide Oval is home to international cricket in the South Australia and the state’s elite squads, the Redbacks and Scorpions. Cricket was first played at the Adelaide Oval in 1873 and the first Test match was played in December 1884, but it was the infamous Bodyline Test in January 1933 that saw a record 174,452 spectators come to Adelaide Oval to watch cricket. The more recent 2006-07 Ashes Test was also a major event with 136,761 spectators enjoying the five days of play.
Cricket at the Adelaide Oval is a significant part of South Australia’s tourism industry. Approximately 4500 international and 7000 interstate tourists visited Adelaide during the 2006-07 Test contributing $58.5 million to the state economy and delivering 132 full-time jobs during 2006-07.
However, the highest single day’s attendance record for any sport played at the Adelaide Oval belongs to football with 62,543 people attending the 1965 grand final between Port Adelaide and Sturt. Australian football was first played at Adelaide Oval in 1877 and since that time, 18 sports including archery, athletics, baseball, cycling, hockey, lacrosse, lawn tennis, rugby and soccer have been played at the Oval. Most recently, this has included the International Rugby Sevens Adelaide tournament and the World Police and Fire Games opening ceremony.
As one of South Australia’s iconic venues, the Adelaide Oval has also hosted visits by three future kings of England and Queen Elizabeth on the 1954 royal tour. Other state events held at the Oval include the memorial services for Dame Nellie Melba, Pope John Paul and former Test cricketer David Hookes.
Some of the world’s best-known entertainers have performed at the Oval with Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson and Madonna all playing to capacity crowds. In 1998, Elton John and Billy Joel played to a crowd of 37,000 at the Adelaide Oval.