Ashes Test cricket looms as the sport most likely to open the Perth Stadium at Burswood, with construction of the $1.4 billion project months ahead of schedule and on track to be finished well before the end of 2017.
Perth will host an Ashes Test in November or December 2017 and a decision will be made by the end of next year on whether to hold the Test match at the WACA Ground or to launch the new stadium.
The West Australian understands construction is four months ahead of schedule, with grandstands on the western side of the stadium already climbing to three tiers. The faster-than-expected progress has prompted talks about bringing forward a deal between the WA Cricket Association and the State Government to play Tests against England, South Africa and India at the stadium.
The deal is scheduled to start in 2018-19.
The Government has had a conservative completion date of early 2018, in time for the AFL season, but it is highly probable it will be finished well before then.
The Government and the WACA said yesterday it was too early to confirm the venue for the 2017 Ashes Test, but both expressed interest in playing the game at Burswood “if possible”.
Premier Colin Barnett said he understood Cricket Australia had written to the “stadium team” asking about the venue’s availability. “Although it is too early to know for certain whether the stadium will be ready ahead of schedule, it would be terrific for Perth if that was the case,” he said.
WACA chief executive Christina Matthews said the WACA had been asked if it would be open to playing the 2017 Ashes Test match at the new stadium and the answer was “yes, we are interested”.
“Our arrangement starts in 2018-19 and we would have to come to a separate arrangement for any games in 2017-18,” Ms Matthews said.
“There is no doubt that we are interested if there was an opportunity … but as you can imagine there is a lot of stuff we have to make sure is correct.
“We are still 21/2 years away from the scheduled opening, so there is a lot of water to go under the bridge.”
Ms Matthews said the WACA would need to know the stadium’s likely completion date before the end of next year.
“We have to announce the Ashes schedule, we have to put tickets on sale and we have to know what that would look like at a new stadium but who wouldn’t love to be the opening event event there,” she said.
The boost to tourism and for cricket fans would be “massive”.
“That is what the real driver is,” Ms Matthews said. “We know that the next Ashes series is going to be another cracker as we try to reclaim them, so to give more people than ever before the opportunity to watch an Ashes Test would be outstanding.
“It would be sad to not have a last Ashes match here (at the WACA) but it does fit in with the arrangements we have made with the Government, which is to have England, India and South Africa being the countries that would play Tests at that new stadium.”
Ms Matthews said many England fans travelled to Australia to watch an Ashes series. A bigger stadium would allow more visitors and locals to watch the match.
“What we have never been able to do, and what Cricket Australia would be very happy that we will be able to do in the future, is to be able to provide enough tickets for the demand they have for the Perth Test from England,” she said.
“They don’t come because there is not enough tickets. The tourism benefit to have an Ashes test at the new stadium is, I think, beyond everybody’s wildest dreams.
“As I now know having come from the east coast, you save six hours from England by coming to Perth first. A lot come for the Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Tests, so if they can add Perth in that would be a bonus.
“The increase in tourism would be outstanding. Local fans, too,” Ms Matthews said.
“We sell out four days of an Ashes Test very quickly and to give more people the chance to be part of the event would be fantastic.”