For the past 30 years, the Adelaide Football Club has called Football Park home.
Nestled in the North-Western suburbs of Adelaide, Footy Park has been synonymous with South Australia’s fanatical sporting culture and hosted some of its greatest moments across its 40 years as the states premier football venue.
Ranging from epic league Grand Finals to that famous first Crows game in 1991, the sporting childhood memories of many children in Adelaide are centred around trips out to West Lakes.
The ground has without a doubt made a great home for the Crows over this time and will forever be the founding place of the Adelaide Football Club.
However, with the AFL shifting its South Australian matches from the venue to the re-developed Adelaide Oval in 2014 and the site now being dismantled and repurposed into housing estates, the history and culture that surrounds the place is quickly vanishing.
Now forced to train in a facility surrounded by constant construction, the call has come from many for the Crows to abandon their West Lakes home and forge ahead to a new era at a base closer to Adelaide’s heartland.
The club has listened.
Over the past 12 months they have been active in their pursuit of an inner city headquarters with initial hopes of the Adelaide aquatic centre in the northern parklands dashed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now focus has shifted too numerous locations around the city as the club looks for a space they can develop into a state of the art facility.
This is where the historic Thebarton Oval fits perfectly into the picture.
A mainstay in South Australian football for many decades, Thebarton Oval was home to former SANFL club the West Torrens Eagles for over 80 years and is filled with joyful memories for many South Australians.
It is a venue filled with the history and culture that many have said has been lacking at the current West Lakes facility, with the old Grandstand’s and terraces looking over what is still an excellent deck.
The facility also still plays a key role of the development of the game in South Australia, being the original home of the Crows AFLW side in 2017 and the long serving headquarters of the state’s premier amateur competition, the Adelaide Football League.
Combining a top-class facility and the history of an old state league ground is the perfect representation of what the Crows are about, with the club originally forming as amalgamation of the SANFL teams.
Taking inspiration from the excellent headquarters built by Richmond at Punt Road, Port Adelaide at Alberton and St Kilda at Moorabbin, redeveloping Thebarton Oval will give the Crows a chance to blend the tradition of football generations past and the modern infrastructure of a bold future.
Along with the cultural and historical benefits this move would have for the Crows, Thebarton Oval would allow the Crows to boost its fan engagement and create an environment more accessible to its supporters.
Situated in the heart of Adelaide’s inner west, it is a location that fits the demographic of the clubs supporter much better and will allow fans to interact with the team at post-match functions and open trainings in a much more inviting manner.
The Crows are first and foremost a ‘team for all South Australians’, and the time is now to move into a new era in Adelaide’s inner-city suburbs.
From a club perspective this is a perfect fit, however with a project of this magnitude it will take complete buy in from all parties to produce a positive outcome.
This is where the city of West Torrens comes into play.
With council troubles thwarting the club’s previously proposed headquarters at the aquatic centre, early signs from officials have been positive.
A recent vote by the West Torrens city council resulted in a unanimous backing of the project should the Crows choose to pursue the site as its new headquarters.
Speaking with The Inner Sanctum, councillor for Thebarton Graham Nitschke is excited about the prospect of the Crows moving into the area.
“I think it will be very, very good for the people [of the West Torrens council],” he said.
“The Crows are a staple of South Australia and to have them move to Thebarton would be a fantastic thing for all parties.”
Despite early optimism, Nitschke still holds some reservations as the council looks to create an end result that will allow the local community to still engage with the area.
“Early signs are looking good, but with everything we need to get all the facts and details,” he said.
“I think the people will be all for it, but we still need to make sure they can access the area and continue occupy the Oval’s surrounding parks such as Kings Reserve.”
This sentiment was ratified by Adelaide Football Club chief executive Andrew Fagan, who in a recent letter to members outlined that engagement with fans will be of top priority for the upcoming project.
“Thebarton Oval has regularly been talked about as a prime spot in recent weeks and it is among several locations in and around Adelaide that we are assessing,” Fagan said.
“At the forefront of our thinking is the need to create a place where the Crows family can come together in an environment which reflects the past and present achievements of the Club and its people.”
When it comes to building the home of an AFL football club there are a number of key factors to consider.
These range from establishing a strong culture, respecting the history of the game and engaging strongly with supporters.
Thebarton Oval merges all of these aspects together and will without a doubt serve as a symbol of a new era of Adelaide Crows football.