I have been revelling in frequent trips to the fantastic new Adelaide Oval to watch the cricket, AFL and soccer, much to the chagrin of my wife who bemoans having to stay home with the ‘clowns’ (our two children aged 4 and 6). The stadium is truly world-class and it has given the city of Adelaide a much-needed boost in terms of trade and tourism.
At a recent Crows game, my Victorian offsider felt it necessary to put a dampener on proceedings. When the ground announcer advised that the stadium lights would be extinguished for the post-match light show, he turned to me with a grin and said: ‘When the entertainment starts, are they going to retract the lights into the ground? They’re retractable, right?’.
Smart arse…with a long memory.
Yes, back in 1997 the intention was to have fully retractable light towers at Adelaide Oval. This fanciful plan was hatched to appease the traditionalists who were concerned that permanent lights would detract from the amenity of this very picturesque precinct.
After a lengthy bun-fight, a compromise position was struck – the light towers would rise from the ground to facilitate night-time sport, and then retract into the ground, out of sight, when not needed.
Nice plan, but it was an unadulterated failure. The lights were scheduled for completion in October 1995, but were first turned on in December 1997, two years late and more than $4 million over budget. Not three months later, one of the towers collapsed, injuring two workers. And that was the end of that.
Today, the light towers at Adelaide Oval are fixed and permanent. For most, the retractable floodlight towers saga has been confined to history, never to be mentioned again. Except by jealous out-of-towners.