Here, colonial iron trellis-clad verandas meld seamlessly with contemporary glass and steel buildings
If the city of Adelaide, perched on the banks of South Australia’s River Torrens were a person, they would most certainly be accused of having a split personality disorder. How else does one come to grips with its colonial architecture — all red brick walls and iron trellis-clad verandas — melding almost seamlessly with startlingly modern glass and steel buildings and public spaces.
A perfect example of this unlikely coupling of old and new is reflected in the hallowed Adelaide Oval. This multi-utility sports stadium that sees everything from Australian Rules football to soccer and yes, of course, cricket played in it, is testament to how comfortable Adelaide is with keeping up with the times yet clinging on precariously to its heritage.
Established in 1871, the historic Oval underwent a massive overhaul in 2014, at a cost of 535 million Australian dollars, retaining very little of its past in the form of the original redbrick, arched western wall and a few other minor heritage details. In keeping with its snazzy new image, a few years later in 2016, it threw open its doors, or should I say its roof, to adrenaline junkies to climb all over, much in the same fashion as Sydney’s Harbour Bridge did a decade or so ago. Over 50,000 is the seating capacity of the stadium now.
Speaking of which, one of the most beautiful parts of the stadium complex has got to be the Edwardian style scoreboard with its scorecards that need to be manually changed to this very day. First used in 1911, the wooden scoreboard is listed on the City of Adelaide Heritage Register, helping to maintain the charm of the ground. There is even a bar located under the scoreboard, for nervous climbers to unwind.
Now, to a non-cricket fan and an occasional sufferer of vertigo like myself, the prospect of indulging in a roof climb at the Oval was akin to getting my molars pulled out, sans anaesthesia. But as the saying goes “when in Australia, do as the adventure sports loving Aussies do.” Egged on by my motely posse of pals, I signed the two-page indemnity sheet and put my life in the hands of Katie our guide and roof climb instructor for the day.
Believe me when I say that the pre-climb briefing and donning the safety harness were infinitely scarier than the actual roof climb itself. The guided climb runs for about two hours and covers a distance of 1.2 kilometres in total, climbing up and down ladders and multiple flights of stairs, walking on open metal grate walkways and a stepped bridge.
Kitted out to the hilt as though preparing for a trip to outer space, wearing a special shell suit, an audio system with an over-ear piece, and with various cords, buckles and hooks preventing us from plummeting to the soft Astro Turf below, we trudged along a gangway to the very apex of the roof. Although fastened at all times to the moving guide rail, the sheer 50 metres drop took a wee bit of getting used to, especially at the peak of the climb on the Riverbank stand.
Curving outwards, the overhanging lip of the roof at this stand is the spot for all those cheesy, arms wide open photo ops. Biting the bait of pure, undiluted adrenaline, I did just that, ending it all with a perfunctory keepsake picture snapped by a friend.