First opened in 1908 as a modest football pitch, Subiaco Oval has grown into Western Australia’s largest multipurpose sports stadium. A beloved Perth landmark, the facility, rechristened as Domain Stadium earlier this year as part of a naming rights deal but still referred to as "Subi Oval" by everyone anyway, is ground-zero for Australian rules football in the Golden State and home to not one but two Australian Football League (AFL) franchises. Over the years, the iconic stadium has also hosted numerous rugby matches and sold-out concerts from the likes of antipodean headliners such as the Bee-Gees and AC/DC.
Subiaco Oval’s days, however, are numbered.
In 2018, a 60,000-capacity mega-stadium is due to open across the Swan River in nearby Burswood, rendering old Subi obsolete. While no concrete decisions as to the ultimate fate of the stadium have been announced, the most likely scenario would see the stadium razed to make way for high-density housing.
One audacious Subi redevelopment scheme to recently emerge indeed centers around the creation of new housing. Under said proposal, 220 one- and two-bedroom apartments would be erected on the old stadium site. What’s more, the $120 million ($86 million USD) proposal includes extensive elevated public parkland, a marketplace, restaurants, retail, al fresco event space and a WA Football Hall of Fame museum. But most noticeably, the scheme places Western Australia’s other pastime that’s not football front and center: surfing.
As such, the new development would be home to a gargantuan urban surf facility complete with an artificial lagoon measuring nearly 1,000-feet-long and 400-feet-wide. Harnessing innovative Wavegarden wave-generating technology, this isn’t your standard water park wave pool. Capable of churning out gnarly 6-and-a-half-foot waves, this is a legit inland surfing facility the likes of which have never been seen before Down Under.
The proposal is dubbed Subi Surf Park and Andrew Ross, chairman of Wave Park Group, thinks it will a sizable splash. He tells WAToday: “The waves in Perth are rubbish, so for us it's about providing an authentic alternative to the ocean and it's about proving convenience for people as well.”
“With Subiaco Oval at the moment we have an amazing spectacle, but it's a passive spectacle. You go along and watch the footy, but with this type of option it's an active recreation, which also creates a spectacle. Surfing is only second to AFL for national sporting participation and there are more surfers in Perth than people play cricket, both indoor and outdoor combined and there is going to be a huge market for this.”
“Aiming to “revolutionise surfing participation in Australia with the development of world-class surf parks,” East Fremantle-based Wave Park Group worked alongside local firm MJA Studio to execute the concept. From the initial batch of renderings, Subi Surf Park looks like what would happen if convention-bending Danish architect Bjarke Ingels grew up on a steady diet of “The Endless Summer,” not LEGO. It’s fantastical, far out and fun. A bit of a pipe(line) dream, sure, but why not turn an obsolete soccer stadium into the world’s raddest urban surfing lagoon?
Writes MJA Studio:
MJA studio acknowledges that a business-as-usual approach to the future use of this site will not do it justice. As proud local business owners we believe in our collective ability to construct dynamic community space through innovative solutions, reigniting Subiaco’s identity as a premier Western Australian destination.
Our vision is to create an inclusive urban landmark where residents and guests experience life changing moments, have clean fun, get fit and feel connected through a shared passion of respect for each other and the planet.
As detailed by the Sunday Times, Wavegarden wave machine technology — “the closest thing to an ocean break” — is still relatively new to the public and has only been employed at two European water parks including one in Wales. The first U.S. facility to employ Watergarden technology, Doug Coors' highly anticipated NLand Surf Park, is due to open outside of Austin, Texas, in 2016. The drought-sensitive inland surf destination will be self-sustaining and only use rainwater in its lagoon.
Founded in 2005 by engineer Josema Odriozola and sports economist Karin Frisch, Watergarden is headquartered in beautiful San Sebastian, Spain. Josh Lew wrote about how the company generates totally epic manmade waves for MNN earlier this year:
This system uses a specific layout to mimic the natural conditions of a reef break. Basically, the wave maker, which can be hidden under water, produces 4- to 8-foot surf that roll across a large lagoonlike pool for up to 20 seconds.
The Wavegarden design calls for a barrier running down the middle of the pool. This creates two separate waves, one that breaks right and the other that breaks left, making it possible for surfers to ride facing the wave or with their backs to it, no matter what their stance.
As noted by Josh, Wavegarden’s patented artificial wave-making magic requires less energy than run-of-the-mill wave pools.
As for Subi Surf Park, the freshwater lagoon, divided into six distinct zones, would be spacious enough for beginning and non-surfers — jakes and grommets, if you will — to splash around. There’d also be dedicated lanes for lap swimming.
James Thompson of MJA Studio believes that the park has the potential to draw 300,000 visitors annually to the Perth 'burbs.
Thompson tells the Sunday Times: “Subi Oval has inhabited its space for over 100 years and this is the first time this site has required a new use. It’s a great opportunity to rethink Subi and rethink Perth. It’s not a crazy, billion dollar project, it’s feasible and something we could get going as soon as footy finishes if we have support from government."
And as Ross explains, Subiaco Oval wouldn’t be completely erased from the landscape: “The grand stand does disappear, but we do keep the historic gates on the south-western corner which are heritage-listed. The orientation of the park and the apartments very much mimics and pays homage to what the stadium is."
Demolition waste, including crushed concrete from the old stadium, would be used to build the lagoon, which, by the way, would roughly require the same amount of water to fill as it takes to irrigate the stadium’s grass pitch annually.
Like Wavegarden's wave-making machinery, parking for the complex would be hidden away out of sight.
Public reactions to the proposal, which, I should mention has not (yet) been endorsed by local officials, has garnered mixed reactions from residents of Perth's inner-western suburbs. While many are stoked about the idea of opening up the state government-owned site to public recreation and housing (the site would need to be rezoned for residential development), others have voiced concern about congestion and other potential worries.
And then there's the fact that Perth is blessed with a bounty of fabulous natural beaches. Why the need for an ersatz one? As previously mentioned by Andrew Ross of Wave Park Group, while beautiful, Perth's beaches are only so-so for serious surf. (Margaret River, an international surf mecca, is a 3-hour drive south of Perth along Western Australia's Rainbow Coast).
Surf quality aside, one commenter at WAToday is certainly behind the proposal: “Fantastic idea — can’t wait to catch a few barrels before, during and after work!”
Via [Designboom], [WAToday], PerthNow]