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  • Writer's pictureJohn Townsend

WACA needs to avoid Folly 2.0

It is only a few months since the WACA Folly disappeared, taking with it the last evidence of a historic management decision conceived in ignorance and the subject of either non-existent or wilfully blind board oversight.

The folly was the giant steel framework that, for two decades, sat almost directly behind the sightscreen at the northern end of the cricket ground.

For all but one day of its existence, its only use was as an occasional gantry for television cameras.

It only lasted one day because, on November 28, 2002, the day before the third Ashes Test was due to start, referee Wasim Raja took one look at the giant replay screen being constructed directly behind the bowler’s arm and instructed the WACA to either remove it or face the consequences of a cancelled Test match.

The modular screens then came down, the framework stayed up and became a reminder for two decades that even the most credentialled organisations can make decisions beyond any rational comprehension.

Is the WACA now about to build Folly 2.0?

The fiasco over urinals not being included in the WACA’s proposed $150 million redevelopment continues to play out to the detriment of just about everyone involved.

It is not a massive issue but it is an illuminating one.

It also prompted this columnist to examine the redevelopment documentation on the WACA website to see if there are any other curious ones.

Apart from the development application stretching over 293 pages, a tome that might have been designed to overwhelm readers with detail and surely examined by only a tiny fraction of WACA members and supporters, there are some telling elements within.

Folly 2.0 appears to be the main one.

It is a blockhouse resembling a World War II gun turret that has been plonked on the boundary at the northern end.

It will house the main changerooms while a flat deck on top will provide a prime viewing spot and double up as a stage for events like WA Opera’s recent production of Carmen.

Except Carmen was only financially feasible at the WACA because the company had outstanding COVID funding it had to use or lose.

It was a one-off and WA Opera has little interest in returning for another.

And the viewing deck cannot be used during cricket matches for the same reason that the first Folly was unusable – it creates unacceptable movement behind the bowler’s arm.

The website image of fans enjoying their proseccos while the game goes on below them is simple a furphy.

Most critically, and this is evident from the various graphic images produced in the four years since the WACA redevelopment was announced as a $75 million fully-funded scheme to the current reduced facility at twice the cost, a few dollars of which are still short, it will require the removal of hundreds – maybe thousands – of seats in the prime viewing zone.

They were present in the original designs, as seen here, but have since vanished.

The blockhouse dominates the northern boundary but two massive viewing rooms have also been added to the area, ensuring the players have a panoramic view from the best position on the ground.

They are not likely to be Test players though, because the ICC requires a minimum 10,000-seat capacity for a ground to retain its Test eligibility.

Another intriguing detail also popped out from the several hours of eye-glazing examination of the 293 pages.

While the DA forecasts that people will flock to the City of Perth swimming pool on the north-west corner and public gym in the new northern stand, they will most likely have to get there by foot, bike or CAT bus.

Staff as well. And players attending State training or matches?

Under the previous set-up, 95 parking bays existed at the ground but will be reduced to 41.

And with the State government announcing a new high-rise primary school to be built on a public carpark next to the WACA, competition for bays will only increase.

There is no issue that reducing car use is good for all of us but how will that play out if the driver who has to park on the far side of East Perth cemetery is Mitch Marsh dragging a loaded cricket bag?

It is highly likely that the looming WACA AGM will feature numerous searching questions from members dismayed by the urinal debacle and concerned about what else awaits.

But many of those questions will be redundant given that the WACA board is about to meet and may be ready to sign off the contract for the redevelopment to get underway.

Let’s hope the lights are on when they meet and there is full scrutiny and comprehension of the legacy they are about to leave WA.

The WACA Folly demands it.

IMAGES: Supplied


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