Ballymore will always be the spiritual heart of rugby in Queensland.
Now in its 55th year, the long-awaited redevelopment of the ground is now underway.
The redevelopment will transform Ballymore into a modern high-performance sports and health precinct.
New tenancies on the site will help the QRU offset the $1 million annual cost of maintaining Ballymore, allowing that money to be reinvested in our game.
National Rugby Training Centre and New McLean Stand
Construction has now begun on the $30 million National Rugby Training Centre and New McLean Stand at Ballymore.
The project is the first stage of the redevelopment and is due to open in April next year.
The NRTC will be one of the best high-performance centres in the country, with a 700m2 gym, aquatic recovery and sauna and a 75-seat auditorium for team meetings and community rugby education.
The NRTC will be the new national headquarters of Women’s Rugby and of the national Wallaroos side, as well as a new home for the Queensland Reds men’s and women’s teams.
The new McLean Stand, which is integrated into the NRTC building, will have a 3010-seat capacity -slightly more than the old stand it replaces – including corporate and function facilities which double as meeting rooms during normal operation.
These function spaces will provide an important secondary source of revenue for the QRU, along with the ability to hire out the high-performance facilities to visiting teams, including from other sports such as during the 2023 FIFA Women’s Football World Cup.
The construction tender was won by Buildcorp after a highly competitive process. Buildcorp has a long history of supporting rugby in Australia and we are very excited to see them bring this project to completion.
The QRU has appointed a Heritage Committee of Life Members, historians and rugby writers to ensure the rich history of Ballymore is properly reflected in the new building and wider precinct.
The masterplan – approved by the State Government in January – is a true game-changer for rugby in Queensland.
It allows for the construction of several new income-generating buildings and facilities at Ballymore, helping to decouple the financial success of the QRU from the on-field success of the Queensland Reds.
These include three new buildings which can be used for sport and recreation, sports administration or allied health and sports medicine. These proposed buildings are to the rear of the NRTC, on the site of the existing gym shed on Clyde Rd and to the rear of the Southern Hill. The QRU is considering both ground leases or joint ventures and has already had several approaches from interested parties.
The masterplan also allows for the construction of a swim school in the south-east of the precinct. Expressions of interest for the construction and operation of the pool have been called and are due at the end of April.
Behind the Eastern Stand, a sports climbing centre has been approved. The QRU is in exclusive negotiations with a potential operator. This proposed centre would become the only Olympic-standard sports climbing centre in the Southern Hemisphere, and add another Olympic sport to Ballymore, enhancing its appeal for future funding.
While the NRTC and New McLean Stand fix one side of the stadium, the Eastern Stand still requires significant investment if the stadium is to be used for major events once more.
The stand itself is structurally sound, however the seats are showing their age after almost 30 years in the sun and the old corporate boxes at the top of the stand have been destroyed by vandalism.
The QRU is focused on bringing the stand back to standard and we have been having early conversations with several key stakeholders about pre-Olympics investment.
Ballymore has been earmarked by the State Government as a venue for hockey during the 2032 Olympics.
This would entail temporary artificial pitches being paid over the turf fields, with the fields being restored afterwards at the Government’s cost.
There is precedent for this, with the Harlequins home ground The Stoop, in Twickenham, being used as a temporary hockey venue for the 2012 Olympics.
There’s still a long way to go, but as a 10-15,000 seat stadium in the inner city, we are confident Ballymore will be an Olympics venue in some respect.
Queensland Rugby Foundation
Under the guidance of now-new Chair Brett Clark, the QRU last year established the Queensland Rugby Foundation, which is seeking philanthropic contributions towards Ballymore and the wider game.
The Foundation already has pledges of more than $2 million and has reignited a passion amongst generous supporters of our game. These donations will help the QRU realise its strategy of turning Ballymore into an income-generating asset that allows us to reinvest sustainable funding into the game. Importantly, these are donations that would not have come to rugby if not for the redevelopment of Ballymore and the stable financial future that it promises the game.
A 10-year runway of events
Ballymore is uniquely placed to be at the centre of an exciting 10-year runway of major events leading up to the 2032 Olympics, including the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the 2025 British and Irish Lions Tour, a proposed 2025/26 Sport Climbing World Cup, and the 2027 and 2029 men’s and women’s Rugby World Cups.
There is a lot of hard work and investment still to come – the NRTC and New McLean Stand is only first stage, but it is the catalyst that will allow this redevelopment to come to fruition.
Queensland Rugby Union
Chief Executive Officer