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Official Review by Lloyd Rothwell, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The major cricketing venue in Australia's island state dates from 1914, and has a current capacity of 19,500. Located in the Hobart suburb of Bellerive, on the banks of the Derwent River across from the CBD, the ground has undergone a series of upgrades over the past 15 years, which has made it a regular stop during Australia's summer of international cricket. Tasmania wasn't integrated into regular domestic cricket until the late 1970s, but has produced a number of great players and cult heroes, such as David Boon and Colin Miller.
As well as being the home of the Tasmanian Cricket Association, Blundstone Arena is also a football stadium. The ground is a long-time host of the Clarence Football Club from the Tasmanian Football League, while additionally acting as a home-away-from-home for the North Melbourne Kangaroos of the AFL. The 'Roos are one of several clubs who have leveraged the Tasmanian market, with Hawthorn playing several games in Launceston.
The Hobart Hurricanes, like all the other Big Bash League Twenty20 cricket franchises, was formed in 2011 as a new identity separate from existing state teams. While their on-field performance is best described as mediocre, their crowds have steadily increased over the years, and now average over 16,000 per match.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The food options are mostly as expected at Blundstone, consisting of the usual items such as pies ($5), chips ($4), and burgers ($7), albeit slightly better priced than at most major venues around the country. The quality is reasonable, so don't feel too bad about grabbing something to munch on while you enjoy the game. The cheapest beer is $7.50, with wine $6.50 and soft drinks $4.50.
More than $35m has been spent upgrading Blundstone Arena since 1999, including new grandstands, practice facilities, and light towers to enable day-night fixtures; the exterior of the stadium is sleek and modern. The majority of seating can now be found in the southern and western stands, known as the David Boon and Ricky Ponting stands respectively. The remainder of the venue consists of the Members Pavilion at the northern end of the ground, while on the eastern side sits a smaller grandstand, a grass hill, and the video scoreboard.
For the uninitiated, Ponting is arguably the greatest ever cricketer to hail from the Apple Isle, and the only Tasmanian to have captained Australia in test cricket. Boon, on the other hand, was the mainstay of Australia's batting order for much of the late 1980s and 1990s, and has become something of a cult hero; Boon is known for his impressive moustache and quiet persona, and supposedly holds the beer drinking record for an airplane flight between Sydney and London, having consumed 52 cans en route to the victorious Ashes Tour of England in 1989. Behind the stands are statues of both Ponting and Boon, and the western gate is also the site of pre-game fan activation stalls.
Tasmania, even in the summertime, can be cold and windy. "Tassie" is of course the southernmost state of the continent, and lies in the path of the "Roaring Forties." While the Ponting Stand now blocks some of the strong southerly winds, it can still be cool at Blundstone Arena.
Bellerive is predominately a residential area on the eastern shore of the Derwent River; the Hobart CBD lies on the other side of the river, and can be accessed by the Tasman Bridge. Hobart is the capital city of the state of Tasmania, and the state has a fascinating history, having been founded as a harsh and brutal convict settlement. Tasmania also experienced the worst of the poor race relations between white settlers and the indigenous population, with most accepted accounts noting that a concerted and calculated campaign of extermination by the whites came close to wiping out the Tasmanian Aborigines altogether.
The city of Bellerive retains much of its colonial architecture, connecting visitors to the past. A must-visit is Hadley's Orient Hotel (34 Murray Street); originally built by convict labour in 1834, Hadley's is reportedly Australia's oldest continually operating pub, and is a Hobart gem. Another good historic pub to visit is Customs House (1 Murray Street), which is frequented by sailors after completing the famous Sydney-Hobart yacht race, held each year after Christmas. Tasmania is also known for its fresh produce, particularly seafood sourced from the local surrounding waters. Many restaurants can be found in the waterside tourist precinct of Salamanca Place, best accessed by the sandstone-built Kelly's Steps. In addition, if you are interested in history, then Port Arthur is definitely worth a visit as well (~90 minute drive from Bellerive).
Hurricanes fans are strong supporters of their team, but despite the ground announcer proclaiming them as the "best fans in the BBL," they're a little more subdued than other fans around the country. This is not necessarily a criticism, as from a cricket perspective they are the most attentive fan base in the league. See the video below for a glimpse of the fans inside Blundstone Arena:
There is some parking close by the oval, and many people drive to the game. Free parking can be found at South Street Reserve, and there are free shuttle bus services from the city. Your best tip is to check the website for the game you plan on attending, to ascertain the most suitable option for you.
Once you get inside the arena, access within the stadium is relatively smooth, and navigation is easy.
Ticket prices offer value for money, with adult General Admission from as low as $23. The usual discounts for children and families also apply, making entry for most very affordable. As always, all BBL teams tend to offer a good experience for families, and are a sensational way to take the youngsters to experience the fun of a night out at the cricket. With access and refreshments reasonably priced, the Hurricanes definitely offer affordable and high quality entertainment.
Blundstone Arena offers both tours and a library / museum, although both have limited hours, so be sure to check the schedule on the Hobart Hurricanes' website before you visit; as with most stadiums, tours are not available on game days. Also, be sure to check out the view from The Plumb Café at the top of the western stairs!
The Hobart Hurricanes at Blundstone Arena are the perfect excuse for a trip to beautiful Tasmania!
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34 Murray St
Hobart, TAS 7000
(61) 3 6237 2999
5 Kelly St
Battery Point, TAS 7004
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