WACA needs new blueprint
Mike Smith at the WACA Ground. Pic: Iain Gillespie

Mike Smith was one of the dozens of frustrated WA cricket fans queuing to get into the WACA Ground in December 2000 who heard - but were unable to witness - Glenn McGrath's Test hat-trick.

Smith, who was West Coast chairman at the time, may not have been able to get into the WACA that day but the red carpet has been laid out for him now as the person charged with identifying the best future use for the ground.

Smith retains an emotional attachment to the WACA but it is his ability to conceive strategic answers to big-picture issues, after a career in marketing and business, that makes his appointment so critical.

The WACA is still licking its wounds after the proposed redevelopment with Ascot Capital collapsed last summer while the new multi-purpose stadium at Burswood is likely to provide a fundamental change to the sport's fixturing and economic dynamics.

"These are interesting times," Smith said. "The decisions made in the next few months could be crucial for cricket.

"I am not sure that one particular answer exists for the WACA as it considers its future but it is my task to identify the options.

"The one thing I can say with certainty is that the WACA faces a situation that is as complex as it gets.

"These facilities are increasingly inadequate and there is a relatively urgent need to do something, but we are also sitting on valuable land and it is feasible that within 10 years that something could be done here.

"Any solution has to be good for the fans, good for cricket and financially sound."

Smith will chair the WACA's future development strategy committee which is due to report in December.

It is a short period and Smith admits that his team - which includes Christian Porter, the Federal member for Pearce, and St John of God hospital chief executive Lachlan Henderson - needs "to get its skates on".

It will also operate without any financial modelling on the potential for cricket to be played at Burswood but Smith senses that it is virtually certain that some matches will move there.

Smith said: "Is all elite cricket played at the new stadium with the WACA operating like a North Sydney Oval which can cater for a few thousand people?

"Does all cricket remain here? Or is there a mix somewhere in the middle?"

Smith also suspects the WACA future involves football, with a joint high performance centre and shared administration offices two examples of common ground between the sports.

The West Australian

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