From Penal Settlement to Lang Park – Tracking the Transformation of the Suncorp Stadium

Lang Park Suncorp Stadium

Did you know that Lang Park in Milton was once a penal settlement, a cemetery and a circus before transforming into a world-class sports centre, now popularly known as the Suncorp Stadium?

Before the 1840s, the Milton grounds were once part of an established Moreton Bay Penal Settlement. When the land became accessible, free settlers turned part of the area into the North Brisbane Burial Grounds. 

The North Brisbane Burial Grounds

From 1843 to 1875, this cemetery was the main burial site of the city, which inevitably became unsustainable. To address the overcrowding, burials were no longer done at the North Brisbane Burial Grounds following the opening of a new cemetery in Toowong. Essentially, the old burial site became redundant and under-maintained. 

By 1910, the Queensland Government planned the site’s redevelopment as a recreational area to cater to the city’s growing population thus the North Brisbane Burial Grounds was sealed off. Relatives were asked to move their deceased loved ones’ remains at the expense of the government.

Renamed To Lang Park, the Recreational Grounds

By 1914, the site was renamed after Reverend John Dunmore Lang, an advocate of Australian republicanism and the founder of the Presbyterian Scots in New South Wales. He was also instrumental in helping migrants move to Brisbane.

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During World War I, Lang Park was a familiar parade ground for the locals. Other events, such as the Wirths’ Circus and the athletics carnivals, were also mounted on this open area.

The Queensland Amateur Athletics Association then leased the park for its sports events. Lang Park became the official home of the Queensland Soccer Council and the Latrobe Soccer Club until the mid-1930s. 

By the 1950s, the Queensland Rugby League chose Lang Park as its headquarters. With additional funding from the government, improvements were undertaken to provide the site with the spectators’ area, the Frank Burke Stand.

Three decades later, Lang Park hosted NSWRL/ARL games but by the 1990s the leagues moved on to other locations due to a number of issues and factors, including the opening of the ANZ Stadium on Kessels Road in Nathan.

Lang park rugby
Photo Credit:  Mdmanser/Wikipedia/CC BY 2.0

The Suncorp Stadium

In the late 1990s, Brisbane officials hatched a $280-million plan for a state-of-the-art stadium in Milton. During this time, Lang Park was already sponsored by Suncorp-Metway and its stadium was renamed the Suncorp-Metway. 

Following the upgrades, Suncorp-Metway Stadium was again renamed and simplified to the Suncorp Stadium, now boasting a capacity of 52,500. As part of its expansion, the trolley-bus depot within the site had to be demolished along with a number of buildings on Milton Road. 

The site’s redevelopment was finished in time for the 2001 State of Origin Series. The very first game hosted at the new Suncorp Stadium was between the Brisbane Broncos and the Newcastle Knights. The 2003 Rugby World Cup was hosted at the stadium and has since become the traditional home of the state’s rugby league. 

By 2006, the Suncorp Stadium hosted its first concert with Robbie Williams performing for two nights to a full house.

The Suncorp Stadium is marked for another major redevelopment in the coming years as Brisbane prepares to host the 2032 Olympics. 

Published 30 March 2023