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Adelaide Crows ‘cannot afford’ more delays on Thebarton Oval HQ project, chairman warns

Adelaide Football Club chairman John Olsen says the cost of building new headquarters at Thebarton Oval has risen to over $100 million and the bill is being watched “all the time” to make sure the Crows can afford the project.

Feb 15, 2024, updated Feb 16, 2024
The Adelaide Football Club settled on Thebarton Oval as the site for its new headquarters in 2022, after earlier plans to move to North Adelaide and Brompton were blocked. Image: Adelaide Football Club and City Collective/supplied. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

The Adelaide Football Club settled on Thebarton Oval as the site for its new headquarters in 2022, after earlier plans to move to North Adelaide and Brompton were blocked. Image: Adelaide Football Club and City Collective/supplied. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Olsen said the club had now submitted plans to the State Commission Assessment Panel (SCAP) for its “world class” headquarters at Thebarton Oval, after roughly three years of talks with the City of West Torrens.

The redevelopment will see new training facilities built for the Crows’ AFL, AFLW and SANFL teams and Thebarton Oval become the new home ground for the women’s side.

The project has been subject to a lengthy public consultation process to win over local residents concerned about loss of trees and open space.

Olsen said on Wednesday that the redevelopment now costs a “little over $100 million”. It was initially costed at around $75-$80 million.

“We can afford it, but we cannot afford for this matter to be delayed for an extended period and further cost escalation,” Olsen told FIVEaa.

“We’re checking our cost escalation all the time in this process, repeatedly, just to make sure… that at the end of the day we can afford to proceed with the build.”

Thebarton Oval redevelopment

The Crows have secured a 42-year lease of Thebarton Oval and part of the adjacent Kings Reserve. Image: Adelaide Football Club and City Collective

The state and federal governments are contributing $30 million to the project while the City of West Torrens is chipping in $11.26 million. The Crows are expected to fund the rest.

Olsen said the club would take out a $20 million loan to cover the shortfall.

“We’re looking, hopefully, to… have tenders out in the first half of this year and then turning a sod in the soil hopefully in the third quarter,” Olsen said, adding that the state’s planning authorities would soon be sending out the development plans for another round of public consultation.

The Crows chairman and former Premier said he wanted to have an AFLW game at Thebarton Oval around November/December 2025, but “I think that’s going to be a stretch given the consultation periods have taken so long”.

“But certainly, we’d be there early ’26,” he said.

Asked about the length of time it has taken to get the project off the ground, Olsen said: “Would I have liked this to have been handled in a shorter timeframe – you bet I would have.”

The comments come ahead of the club’s annual general meeting next month where the club will report its 2023 financial results and the outcome of its board election.

Incumbent director Graeme Goodings is seeking a second term from members. The media personality is going up against Professor Tracy Smart AO, a retired air force officer and former Surgeon General of the Australian Defence Force.

Goodings was elected to the Crows board in 2022 with 31.8 per cent of the vote in a seven-way contest.

Last year, Crows members elected former Heart Foundation SA/NT chief executive Imelda Lynch in a four-way contest for the other member-elected board spot.

The Adelaide Football Club constitution allows only two member-elected directors, with the remaining board members ratified by the AFL.

Member voting for the board election opens on February 20 and closes on March 1 ahead of the results being announced at the AGM on March 4.

Olsen the club will report a yet-to-be-determined operating surplus at the March AGM.

“That’s really important to have an operating surplus because we’ll be going to the banks asking for a $20 million loan to bridge the shortfall in building this new facility,” Olsen said.

Crows chairman John Olsen. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

“If you go to them and demonstrate that you’re operating on a small surplus each year, you’re in a better position to ask for a loan then if you’re going to them saying, look, we can’t make ends meet on an annual basis.”

The Crows posted a $2.63 million statutory profit in 2021/22 on top of a $1.24 million profit in 2020/21.

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