The Future of Unley Oval Frustrates

Frustration mounts by all and sundry on the “master planning” process that the City of Unley has pursued over the last year. Frustration by the public expecting results and not seeing any, the public believing that certain projects they don’t want to see are a done deal and engaging on these yet to be considered initiatives. Frustration also from the Unley management I suspect that they have to continually respond to misconceptions.

This needs sorting out before we commence (which is soon) a similar process for the Goodwood Oval and Millswood Park precincts.


Before commenting further we must recognise one simple fact and that is the council have resolved to endorse the redevelopment of the Unley Oval precinct in principle only. This endorsement is as a result of extensive public consultation over that time, and subsequent work to identify options for addressing what the public consultation revealed to us. And this endorsement was thankfully a unanimous decision because to do otherwise would be wrong for reasons made obvious later on in this blog post.


Most people recognise that the Oval does need some rejuvenation, many see possibilities to improve the amenity of the area for public use. Sports currently not using the Oval have indicated a desire to be accommodated if possible. So Council would be derelict in it responsibilities if it did not explore what is possible.

There are arguments that we should not be indulging ourselves with grandiose schemes when all we need to do now is………………….. .

Let me say I have been involved in similar exercises as a builder with such institutions as Retirement Villages, Schools etc; organisations that need to plan ahead to ensure current building projects don’t limit opportunities in years to come. I have also been involved in building projects where such forward strategic thinking has not taken place prior.

What I have seen in these scenarios is that organisations that do not think ahead as to what may be needed in the future, make poor decisions with locating the footprint of a building under current consideration. This then makes subsequent development found to be needed later very difficult to achieve or the resultant development is found to be less than effective.

I implore therefore everyone with an interest in the future of the Unley Oval to have patience with the process. The idea of having a master plan or concept or whatever else you want to call it is in my opinion crucial so that decisions this current council does or does not make do not handcuff future councils from also achieving improvements to the precinct.

The touted $50,000.00 we have spent on this project is a wise investment, noting that in the case of council we don’t have just the school or retirement village board of directors to contribute we have the entire public. People from parents taking their kids to the ground to relax and play, to dog walkers, to unorganized and organised sports and a myriad of others.

We have undergone an intensive program to ensure everyone with an interest has been heard. This is not an exercise that can be undertaken cheaply or rushed. Most of that $ 50,000.00 was spent engaging with the public. Preparation of concept drawings was but a fraction of that.

Many issues have been identified and many possible solutions suggested. This reinforces the need for considered forward planning.

Does that mean any of it is going to commence in the near future. That is an emphatic NO!

For instance:

Will there be an underground carpark under the bowling green? Most Unlikely!

Will this be considered well into the future, say 15-20 years from now? Who knows maybe not, but if we plan correctly now we will not restrict this in the future should there be a need established for it.

Will permanent fencing be undertaken in the near future? If an appropriate design can be found, maybe!

Will any such fencing restrict open access to the ground? Absolutely not!

When? Who knows (and this is a topic I might followup on in a later blog).

Will A grade cricket be involved? The process of addressing how the Sturt Cricket Club needs may be met without compromising the use of the precinct by others has seen that this would be most difficult. Council has therefore resolved that future concepts will not include cricket!

Will the McKay Stand be upgraded or extended? Who knows, we have not yet identified whether there is a need to justify this? We are working on this as we speak. It may be that we might upgrade the changing facilities fir the Sturt Footy Club, something that most people recognise needs to happen.

Will Sturt FC offices and boardroom be relocated to the Oval, be it in the McKay stand or the Oatey stand? Yet to be considered as far as I know but this could be being looked at now for all I know and being made ready to present to us. I must say relocating the Sturt Offices to the McKay stand (if it can be easily accommodated) makes sense. It provides Council with an opportunity to better utilise the building known as Jack’s Bar at 39 Oxford Street.

Will the Oatey stand be renovated, extended or will it be demolished? Once again, who knows? If you want my best guess this is unlikely in the foreseeable future, but who knows what the changing face of the population of Unley might show us in time.

What this all boils down to is to provide as with a good platform from which we can now assess the priorities we currently should explore without jeopardising future opportunities. And interestingly we will find that any immediate project may be quite small in stature and cost. No doubt those who believe we have been advocating grandiose schemes will feel they have had a victory and that will be good.

Have we identified what these priorities are? No! It is therefore surprising to see so much public dialogue going on about concepts yet to be discussed by council, let along endorsed for public consultation. When we have determined some priorities and therefore some concepts we WILL re-engage the community. We will welcome and encourage comment at that time.

One thing I will say is whatever projects this current council might consider, assuming there is a budget opportunity or grant funding, is that we MUST make this facility disability friendly. This is something I will insist is included if and when we have a project concept presented to us.

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