Indoor Test Cricket? World’s Biggest Timber Roof Stadium in Works!

Tasmania's $715m Macquarie Point stadium could become a model for the future of stadium construction.

Mon 08 Jul 24


The Tasmanian Government has revealed new plans for its $715-million Macquarie Point Stadium, which the state has dubbed a” once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity. Billed as “the world’s largest timber-roofed stadium,” it could host the world’s first indoor Test cricket match if the International Cricket Council (ICC) approves it.

It comes as new concept designs for the 23,000-seat fully roofed stadium — which will host the state’s newly minted AFL club, the Tasmania Devils — include a compact seating bowl design, a “woven-style” timber facade and a fixed dome translucent roof.

Wood Central understands that Tasmanian timbers will feature both internally and externally in the stadium’s facade. Lead architect Cox Architecture took inspiration from the former railway roundhouse structure, which was part of the old Hobart Rail Yard from 1915 until the 1980s.

Considered a “game-changing,” the project is the “centrepiece” of rejuvenating a central precinct in the heart of Hobart. It has attracted significant financial support from the State Government ($340m), the Australian Government ($240m), and the AFL ($15m), with the bulk of the funds raised through borrowings against land sale or lease for commercial uses. 

Last week, the AFL hierarchy, including CEO Andrew Dillon, viewed the plans with Tasmania Devils bosses also given briefings late this week upon further refining the design. Club chairman Grant O’Brien said the concept images were “evidence that great progress was being made” in bringing the Devils to life: “I think there’s nothing like being able to paint a picture to help people understand what’s on offer here, and I think that’s been lacking.”

“We’ve said that a need for a stadium is to have somewhere to seat the people who want to come, something that’s got the capacity to deal with the demand and something that’s going to provide us with the commercial returns that will allow us to be successful for all Tasmanians.”

Led by Cox Architect and assisted by local design firm Cumulus, the new concept took just eight weeks to develop. The design team was aided by a high-powered engineering team consisting of Pitt and Sherry, COVA, Aldanmark, and AECOM.

According to the ABC, it will form the basis of more detailed designs that will be part of the Macquarie Point Development Corporation’s submission to the Tasmanian Planning Commission – to be assessed through the state’s Project of State Significance process.

The world’s largest timber roof to be made with fabric ‘pillows’

Without question, the engineering highlight is the fully translucent roof – designed by German firm Schlaich Bergermann Partners – featuring ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) “pillows” and a mixed-material steel and timber supporting structure.

ETFE as a material is transparent and almost impossible to tear when used in single-layer applications. The film is structurally stable and highly durable. It’s easy to keep clean thanks to the “lotus effect” and offers an excellent cost-benefit ratio.”

Already used in Nike’s Hayward Field Stadium – the venue for the US Track and Field Olympic trials – and the Grand Palais Éphémère, which will host the Olympic wrestling and Judo later this month, the ETFE roof “will allow light in, support natural turf growth and avoid the need for large light towers,” said Nic Street, Tasmania’s Sports Minister.

Screenshot 7 7 2024 82746 .net .au
In addition to the roof, Tasmanian timbers will also feature as part of the stadium’s exterior, in the latest concept images. (Image Credit: Tasmanian Government)

According to Minister Street, the heavily domed roof mitigates local concerns about stadium height, which, at 51m in the middle, reduces the height of the “edges” of the structure. At the same time, a below-ground road for service vehicles will also help address concerns around the stadium’s overall bulk and transport issues.

World’s first fully air-conditioned test match? India looks on with interest.

Cricket Tasmania, which has expressed some reservations about the ability of the roofed stadium to stage cricket, is understood to be pleased with the design, with several questions about roof height and practice wickets answered at their briefing this week.

The ball-tracking analysis provided by Hawkeye was fed into the stadium design. Cricket officials were satisfied that the roof height would allow at least white ball cricket to be staged, leading to the ticking off of tests after further testing.

“Imagine if you could come down to Tasmania and be guaranteed — and the only thing stopping five days play — is the quality of the teams playing? It makes for a compelling case for [Test] cricket to be played down here,” Cricket Tasmania CEO Dominic Baker told the ABC last week.

“The Indians are looking at this closely as well. Over there, they have the opposite problem, which is the heat. So, having a fully air-conditioned stadium would immeasurably increase their attendance at Test cricket.”

Dominic Baker, Cricket Tasmania’s CEO.

“The ICC [International Cricket Council] are becoming a lot more interested, and if we can build it to be compliant with cricket, then there’s going to be some really big opportunities for Tasmania.”

Wood Central understands that the concept plans will now take 12 months to approve. Subject to passing both houses of parliament, attention will turn to the Government’s ability to turn the concept into reality while keeping the construction within budget and hitting crucial timelines.

Shovels are anticipated to strike the Macquarie Point surface late next year – with 60% of the build being completed by September 2027, and the stadium will be open for business at the start of the 2029 AFL season.


  • 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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