The Brisbane Exhibition Ground (also known as the RNA Showgrounds and the Ekka Grounds), is a showground established in Brisbane during 1875 especially for Ekka (formally titled the Royal Queensland Show). The Exhibition ground is owned and operated by the Royal National Agricultural and Industrial Association of Queensland. The Ekka is a show held at the Brisbane Exhibition Ground over two weeks in August each year. Because the Ekka is only held over a two-week period each year, other displays and exhibitions are held at the Brisbane Exhibition Ground during the remainder of the year.
The site of the Exhibition ground was originally inhabited by the indigenous 'Turrbal' or 'Duke of York clan' who used the area as a campground. The original European name was "York's Hollow".
The Brisbane Exhibition Ground was also the site chosen for the people of Brisbane to welcome Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, when they visited Australia during 1954. It was Queen Elizabeth's first visit to Australia as Queen.
Sport has also been a major feature at the Brisbane Exhibition Ground, but is now only home to the Brisbane Bandits of the Australian Baseball League. Sports played at the Brisbane Exhibition Ground have included:
Unlike many purpose built baseball diamonds, the Showgrounds, much like Coopers Stadium is an oval, allowing for deep foul territory. To counter this foul territory, the field has lines of demarcation that prevent many would-be foul balls from being caught.
28 first-class cricket matches were played between 1893 and 1931, including 2 Tests and 13 Sheffield Shield matches. The first ever Queensland Sheffield Shield game was played at the ground, with Queensland losing to long time arch-rivals New South Wales.
The Test against England in 1928/29 was the first Test played in Brisbane and was the debut of Don Bradman who scored 18 and 1.
The 3rd Test of the series against the West Indian cricket team in 1930/31 was the last first-class fixture at the ground. Brisbane's Exhibition Ground had a short lifespan, staging only two Tests and a couple of dozen first-class matches before being completely replaced by the Gabba. The venue was home of local agricultural shows, and when Brisbane was finally granted a Test in 1928–29, it was held at the Exhibition Ground as it was a natural amphitheatre and so could accommodate more people. However, revenue from that match, and the Test which followed in 1930–31, was disappointing, largely because of the numbers who got in for free by using their agricultural society badges, and the Queensland Cricket Association moved down the road to the Gabba. The venue is no longer used for cricket and instead hosts the annual RNA show which attracts over 500,000 people, as well as speedway and equestrian events. It is situated in the suburb of Bowen Hills and is very close to Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital.
- Rugby League
Rugby League was played at the Exhibition Grounds before the QRL moved to Lang Park.
The Brisbane Exhibition Ground hosted many International, State and club games. At the Exhibition Ground Great Britain won the first Ashes series on Australian soil. Rugby league holds the attendance record for the ground with 40,500 (with a further estimated 10,000 locked out) at the England v Australia test on 6 July 1946.
In 1896 the ground was used for cycle racing.
- Rugby Union
It hosted one of the most controversial rugby union games in 1971 when Australia took on South Africa – the game was switched from Ballymore because it was easier to erect barricades at the Exhibition Ground.
- Australian rules football
QFL games were played at the ground prior to, and just after, World War I.
The ground hosted the 1950 Interstate Carnival, won by the Victorian Football League (VFL) side.
The ground was also host to a VFL premiership match, Essendon vs Geelong, as part of Round 8, 1952. All VFL matches that week were moved to country and interstate venues in an effort to spread interest in the game. Originally to be played on a Saturday afternoon, the match was rescheduled due to torrential rain. Essendon (23.17) defeated Geelong (12.14) by 69 points the following Monday night in the first official VFL match to be played under floodlights.
Starting in 1926, the Ekka was home to Dirt track racing in Brisbane. Motorcycle speedway, Sprintcars, Super Sedans, and Speedcars headlining many a Saturday night show during the summer months with many famous competitors racing at the 450 metres (490 yd) Ekka track, including Jack Brabham, Ray and Howard Revell, George Tattnell, Bob "Two Gun" Tattersall, Blair Shepherd, Ron Wanless, Ivan Mauger, Billy Sanders, Phil and Jason Crump, Sam Ermolenko, Simon Wigg, Leigh Adams and Tony Rickardsson. After the cars stopped using the venue during the early 1980s in favor of the Archerfield Speedway which has a clay surface, speedway faded at the Ekka though the venue continued to host motorcycle racing into the late 1990s including holding events such as the Australian Solo Championship (held at the Ekka in 1934 [3 lap], 1947 [4 lap], 1949 [4 lap], 1951, 52 and 53 [Champion of Champions], 1974, 1981, 1990, 1993 and 1997). The Ekka also hosted the Australian Sidecar Championship in 1961, 1962 and 1992. Speedway somehow never had a 'final night' at the Ekka which now hosts an annual Vintage Speedway meeting every year featuring restored speedway cars and bikes which competed not only at the Ekka but around Australia.
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