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Official Review by Lloyd Rothwell, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Formally named the Brisbane Cricket Ground, the stadium almost universally known as "The Gabba" is the home of cricket in the state of Queensland. The area was originally established as a cricket ground in 1895, but has been used for many sports over the ensuing decades. For this reason, the playing surface was surrounded by an iconic grass dog racing track for many years.
In the early 1990s, an extensive redevelopment began that would eventually see capacity increased to 42,000 within a continuous seating bowl. While rugby league and rugby union internationals are no longer played here, it is the home ground for Queensland Cricket, and features an annual test match, as well as various one-day internationals. In winter the Brisbane Lions AFL club call The Gabba home.
The Brisbane Heat, like all the other Big Bash League Twenty20 cricket franchises, was formed in 2011 as a new identity separate from existing state teams. As the only team in the state of Queensland, they enjoy strong support in their home state, and were champions in the 2012/13 season (BBL|02).
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 Gabba boasts 31 food and beverage outlets located throughout the venue, meaning refreshments are always close by. While they may have hit a six when it comes to quantity, the same can't be said in good conscience about quality or price. There is a definite focus on the standard, mass produced items that can be easily prepared in large quantities. As a price guide, expect to pay between $15-$20 for a serving of food and a drink; at $7.70 for a beer, it will be an expensive trip to the cricket if you fancy a big night out. Even a basic meat pie will set you back $5.
The first of Australia's cricket grounds to receive a major facelift in the modern era, The Gabba is now virtually unrecognizable from what it once was. This quickly elevated the status of the stadium, and differentiated it from other cricket venues around the country. However, given more recent redevelopments in Adelaide and the new Perth Stadium currently being constructed, it is arguable that perhaps The Gabba now lacks some of the modern comforts of the newer stadiums.
Despite this, The Gabba has again broken new ground for the 2016/17 season, and in an Australian first, has opened a splash pool within the stadium. This is a welcome addition, and has generated much interest amongst the cricket-going public.
As with all the Big Bash franchises, the on-field action is regularly supplemented to provide a non-stop experience. The ground announcer for the Heat is very active, which some may find annoying, but at least he seems to have a sense of humour. Expect the usual musical interludes, acrobats, and opportunities for audience participation, in addition to a mini fireworks display at the half time break (between innings).
The suburb of Woolloongabba is located within a couple of kilometers of the Brisbane CBD. There's not a lot of great restaurant options within the immediate neighborhood, although there are a couple of pubs and cafés, but the stadium is within close proximity to the South Bank area, which is one of the most popular tourist destinations for the city. Overlooking the river, this area is a hub of recreation, entertainment, and dining.
If you are visiting Brisbane, exploring South Bank is a must. Given that Brisbane is built about 20 kilometers inland from Moreton Bay, the best beaches are some distance away. However, city planners have overcome this by building a man-made beach and lagoon at South Bank.
Fans of the Heat turn up in numbers, there is no doubt of that. In fact, in recent years they have averaged close to 30,000 spectators per game, as the general popularity of the BBL and Twenty20 cricket has grown sharply. The BBL is particularly attractive to families all across Australia, and Brisbane is no exception. One thing to note though is that many fans are here for the party atmosphere, and therefore fully embrace all aspects of the experience, including regularly leaving their seats to visit the concessions stands; this is worth mentioning, as depending on your seat your view may be regularly interrupted. See the video below for a quick glimpse of the action inside The Gabba.
There is no specialized stadium parking, but there are a few nearby options, such as a parking station near the hospital. However, with a train station and bus options, public transport is likely to be the best option, unless you are within walking distance. Try to ascertain the best entry point for your seat, as there is no central path surrounding the stadium; rather you need to walk up the block and down another street to get from one section to another.
Once inside, the upper levels are largely serviced by stairs, with no escalators. The surrounding concourse is well designed, but the seating bowl inside does not enjoy the same luxury. Also, the constant flow of people in and out of their seats makes for a regularly interrupted experience if you happen to be seated near an aisle.
Adult tickets start from just $22, and with child tickets from only $8, the Heat definitely offers an affordable entry to The Gabba. The highest price point for a reserved seat is $55, and there are also family packages available. Unfortunately, these low costs to get in are somewhat tempered by the high cost of refreshments.
The biggest plus here is the new pool area, a groundbreaking development for an Australian venue.
The Brisbane Heat offer a competitive experience for all at The Gabba. Entry is well priced, and the overall experience will be enjoyable for fans of all ages.
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