Lang Park to Host Brisbane Olympics: Now for Timber Stadiums!

Amid the circus around venues, a global architect alliance are now pushing for the Brisbane Organising Committee to construct venues from timber shells and blended greenery instead of 'cookie-cutter' concrete.

Mon 18 Mar 24


A committee reviewing Brisbane’s 2032 Olympic recommendation to scrap the controversial $2.7 billion Gabba redevelopment in favour of a new, “marginally more expensive” stadium at Victoria Park, Herston, has been rejected by the Queensland Premier.

Instead, the Premier will push to retrofit and rebuild Lang Park, which will be used for the Opening and Closing ceremonies, upgrade the Gabba (for cricket) and QE2 stadium (for athletics) in Nathan.

The Victoria Park new build, proposed by the committee, was understood to cost $3.4 billion, $700 million more than the Gabba rebuild, which had already exploded in cost three times since its first announcement.

However, this afternoon, Premier Steven Miles confirmed that Lang Park (known as Suncorp Stadium), the Gabba, and QE2—used during the 1982 Commonwealth Games—would all be upgraded for the Games.

Premier Miles said, “I don’t agree with that recommendation.” Adding that “With Queenslanders struggling with housing costs, I cannot justify spending $3.4 billion on a new stadium.”

“I know I said I would do what the Quirk review recommended, but I cannot support that option,” with $1 billion of infrastructure spending to be allocated “half-half” between the Gabba, Lang Park with $1.6 billion to be spent converting QE2 into a 40,000 seat stadium.

Earlier this week, Brisbane Lions CEO Greg Swann said the proposal Victoria Park (rather than Gabba) location for a new stadium should be taken seriously. (Photo Credit: Supplied by ARCHIPELAGO)
Earlier this week, Brisbane Lions CEO Greg Swann said the proposal for Victoria Park, backed by the Quirk committee, should be taken seriously. (Photo Credit: Supplied by ARCHIPELAGO)

Yesterday, Premier Miles, who replaced outgoing premier Anastasia Palaszczuk late last year, spoke of his “good working relationship” with newly reelected Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner.

Mayor Schrinner, who last year sensationally quit the games committee, which he called a “pointless talkfest”, is understood to have a better relationship with Premier Miles than his predecessor.

“The Lord Mayor and I have a good working relationship,” Premier Miles said, adding that “we don’t agree on everything, but we do agree the Brisbane 2032 games will be the best ever, and we’re determined to do what we need to deliver that.”

Premier Miles vows for ‘cleaner, greener and more sustainable games’

It comes as last year, Wood Central reported that Premier Miles, who attended COP28 in Dubai, has pledged to use carbon-friendly construction materials in the $7 billion-plus infrastructure build.

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Mick Stephens, Timber Queensland CEO, with Queensland’s new Premier Steven Miles who is directly responsible for the Olympics and Paralympic Games Infrastructure. (Photo Credit: Mick Stephens)

According to the Premier, who is directly responsible for overseeing the Olympic Delivery Authority and managing the $7 billion in infrastructure projects, the climate-positive commitment “will go a long way in helping us achieve that goal while delivering the infrastructure our growing state needs.”

“Not only will this help protect our environment,” he said, but “it will help strengthen the Queensland economy for the future.”

The pledge comes after Wood Central reported that the Paris Olympic Committee has dubbed 2024 to be the year that “Steel is Out, with Wood the story of the Games!”

To mark 100 years since the last Paris Olympic Games, organisers have published the official Olympic Poster, with a number of timber-venues in picture. (Photo Credit: Supplied by Paris 2024 Olympics)
To mark 100 years since the last Paris Olympic Games, organisers have published the official Olympic Poster, with several timber-venues in picture. (Photo Credit: Supplied by Paris 2024 Olympics)

More than 95% of the Paris venues will be existing or temporary, with only the athletes’ village and aquatics centre constructed from scratch – a model being promoted for all future games, including Brisbane 2032, where there is a major push to retrofit venues from the 1982 Commonwealth Games.

Already, the French government is issuing €200 million in subsidies to projects using wood and other biomaterials. It is pushing for 50% of French timber buildings to be constructed from locally grown timber in a bid to double the timber construction market over the next five years.

“Industrial equipment in France is undersized,” Dominique Cottineau, director of the Wood Construction Industry Union (UICB), told Bloomberg. But the trajectory is changing, and we will build with much more wood than before.”

Global Design Alliance pushes Brisbane organisers to use timber!

Meanwhile, the world’s leading architects have revealed their vision for a series of stadiums made from timber.

The alliance includes HKS, Buchan and Nikken Sekkei and reminds the Queensland Government of the “once in a generation” opportunity to deliver instantly recognisable and “distinctly Australian” stadiums.

An artists impression of the new Gabba from the outside for the 2032 Olympic Games. (Image Credit Supplied by Queensland Government)
An artists impression of the proposed Gabba from the outside for the 2032 Olympic Games. This design proposal has now been scrapped. (Image Credit Supplied by Queensland Government)

In an interview with the Courier Mail, HKS Director Andrew Colling said the revamped Gabba could feature a timber shell with blended greenery and sandstone instead of a cookie-cutter concrete stadium.

Mr Colling said the stadium could incorporate a parkland observation deck on its roof and a cocoon of timber and sandstone to “create something that’s not only distinctly South East Queensland but distinctly Australian.”

Andrew Colling of HKS Architects. (Photo Credit: Supplied by HKS Architects)

Mr Colling said, “Timber will play a big role, and we’ll be celebrating the fact we love to be on timber verandas.”

“I’d go as far as to say there’s no reason we couldn’t turn the roof into a park with an observation deck looking back to the city.”

By opting for a greenfield (i.e. complete knockdown and rebuild) rather than brownfield refurbishment, Brisbane is now in an enviable position to create something unique.

“We know the Gabba is not the easiest or cheapest choice for the government,” Mr Colling told the Courier Mail, “but it’s the right choice because if you look at where Brisbane will be in 20 years after the Olympics, it will be a global city.”

The Queensland Government’s management of the Games has been under intense scrutiny, with Red Union Support Hub’s Chris Dekker accusing the government of making contract details “behind closed doors.”

The Palaszczuk government had broken with precedent by keeping the Olympic Delivery Authority within the public service, however Premier Miles cancelled this arrangement after coming to power last December.

Footage courtesy of @7News.
Is a Timber Rich Stadium Possible?

According to Professor Greg Nolan, a timber design and construction expert, the answer is ‘yes’, but with caveats.

Professor Nolan spoke to ABC Radio Hobart Mornings host Leon Compton in May about building the new Macquarie Point AFL stadium in Tasmania out of timber.

Professor Nolan said anything is possible when pointing to the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, where a 100m clear span timber roof was installed over the Sydney Exhibition Building – which hosted the basketball.

At the time of construction, the domed roof at the Sydney Exhibition Building was, at the time of construction, one of the largest timber span roofs. (Photo credit: University of Tasmania)

“You can build a timber-rich stadium, which means you use timber where best suited.”

Multi-storey structures have ground floors laid in concrete and steel, with timber on the upper floors.

“What has evolved is for the lower floors to have concrete structures, and then you spring up wood from above.”

Professor Greg Nolan has previously presented a Guide to Wood Construction Systems. Footage courtesy of @WoodSolutionsAustralia.

This timber has a spanning capacity that is economically suited, he said. 

“It’s the same with concrete. So you build the first floors to suit the car parking and make a platform to go up with timber from that point.”

Like two of the Brisbane stadiums under consideration, Macquarie Point is an oval with unique construction challenges.

“You can get a whole range of timber products. You’ve got glue-laminated timber, cross-laminated timber, and you can form a plate or a slab,” Professor Nolan noted.

“Not too dissimilar to a tilt slab or precast concrete panel, timber can be manufactured in a factory. Because it’s timber, it can be routed within a millimetre of accuracy and assembled on-site like a large panel set.”


  • Jason Ross

    Jason Ross, publisher, is a 15-year professional in building and construction, connecting with more than 400 specifiers. A Gottstein Fellowship recipient, he is passionate about growing the market for wood-based information. Jason is Wood Central's in-house emcee and is available for corporate host and MC services.


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