Life’s all about change, and Youi’s the insurer for all the changes – big and small – that happen to you. That’s why the Brisbane Lions and Youi have teamed-up for the ‘Moments of Change’ series, where each week they’ll look back at some of the defining moments that have shaped the club you know today.

At last … it’s moving week. After 11 long years and a journey of untold twists and turns the Brisbane Lions have a new home. An $80million state-of-the-art training and administration base that will be the envy of sporting clubs across the country, Brighton Homes Arena.

Having been based since 6 December 1992 at the Gabba, first in the old Clem Jones Stand and Gabba Greyhounds headquarters and since April 2000 adjacent to gate two, the club administration team has ridden the rattly old lift down from level five for the last time. 

This week they have moved into their sparkling new headquarters at Brighton Homes Arena, Springfield, 28km south-west of the Gabba in Queensland’s fastest growing region.

It is an eight-hectare ‘home’ that brings together the Brisbane Bears, Lions and Fitzroy in an environment dedicated to elite athletic preparation and performance, mixed with unprecedented levels of interaction and engagement with sponsors, members, fans and community groups.

The project has been delivered on time and on budget despite the complications of Covid and associated supply chain problems and will be worth as much as $100million by the time the finishing touches are completed.

The Springfield headquarters is the pride and joy of Jake Anson, Lions General Manager – Infrastructure, Strategy and Government Relations. 

According to Anson, it will mean a multi-million dollar uplift annually to the Lions financial result, thereby consolidating the club’s standing in the AFL community and allowing it to compete freely with power clubs interstate.

The move to Springfield is the realisation of an original commitment to this very project which was mooted in May 2013 and confirmed officially on 15 August at a gala launch at Springfield Central, when the Hon Catherine King MP, then Minister for Regional Australia in the Kevin Rudd Labor Government, announced a $15m Federal Government budget commitment to the project, which at the time was only a $28million training facility.

The Lions and the AFL had signed a Heads of Agreement with the Ipswich City Council and Springfield Land Corporation for the development of the site, which included a 99-year lease for $1.

But just 23 days later the Labor Government was tipped out and when Tony Abbott’s incoming Coalition Government refused to honour the commitment the Lions’ move to Springfield was abandoned, and the issue of a suitable training and administration base, critical to the club’s long-term financial future, was back on the agenda.

Anson, a life-time football man originally from Jonathan Brown territory in Warrnambool, was an interested onlooker. Having arrived in Brisbane to finish a Masters Degree in Urban and Environmental Planning at Griffith University, he was working at AFL Queensland.

Anson had been a volunteer football administrator in Canada, where he coached the Calgary Kookaburras and was the first coach of the Canadian national women’s team.  He coached the Kookaburras to the US national title in 2008 and the Canadian national title in 2009, and coached Canada to its first wins over the United States in 2010.

Anson, his football administration juices flowing from his time abroad, landed back in Brisbane the week after the 2011 floods. Taking an apartment at Southbank, he walked into AFLQ headquarters at Yeronga to apply for a job in footy development while finishing his studies.

Soon after he was appointed AFLQ Infrastructure Planning Manager and having written the first Facilities Plan for AFL in Australia was responsible for football projects big and small across Queensland and the broader region.

Among his projects was work on Riverway Stadium in Townsville, which in 2019 hosted an AFL premiership match between Gold Coast and St.Kilda, and Great Barrier Reef Stadium in Mackay, which has hosted AFLW matches and international men’s and women’s cricket.

Closer to home, he oversaw construction of footy precincts at Burpengary and Brendale, which now have a prominent place in Queensland football, and across the board led big improvements in female facilities and lighting and a general improvement of the standard of community footy ovals.

From 2012-18 AFLQ secured $450m in Government and project investment for football projects in the Sunshine State.

From 2016 onwards, Anson was asked by Lions CEO Greg Swann and the AFL to aid the Lions in securing a long-term solution for their training base.  He was seconded to work part-time for the Lions, reviewing the feasibility of over 30 possible sites for the training and administration base across greater Brisbane.

Among them were Cronulla Park in Logan, QE2 Stadium, Burpengary, Brendale and two sites at the airport – one next to Skygate and the other near the Trade Coast Hotel. None were considered ideal. 

Of the airport sites, on which the Lions completed substantial due diligence, Anson said there were significant barriers to a successful project. There was no public transport, lights were prohibited due the flightpath, the soil in that area was expensive to build on, with further complications around jet noise and fuel residues.  

Importantly, the start of the AFLW competition in February 2017 sparked what in effect was a massive lightbulb moment. Suddenly the Springfield project was viewed in a new light.

And on 21 July 2017 the club announced a revised commitment to a new training and administration base that would be the playing headquarters for the Lions AFLW team.

“It just made sense,” said Anson. “There was an active business centre, rail and bus transport were at the front door, and there was plenty of spectator parking. It was in one of the fastest-growing communities in the country, with good soil, space for two ovals and no site restrictions.”

But still there was the massive issue of funding as the Lions sought support from the Federal Government, the Queensland Government and the Ipswich City Council. 

Significantly, in March 2017 the Lions were forced to play the 2017 AFLW Grand Final at Metricon Stadium after they were denied access to The Gabba. At the time it was a stinging blow, but politically it was a big win, adding significantly to the campaign for State Government funding for the Springfield project.

So, the club had a new four-part plan for the facility to:-

  1. Create an elite performance centre for athletes.
  2. Provide a professional-quality stadium for AFLW and VFL football.
  3. Allow for more-extensive community engagement.
  4. Secure the club’s financial future.

Anson and CEO Swan worked tirelessly behind the scenes, and after taking AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan to a meeting with Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, were delighted on the day of the 2018 AFLW Grand Final to confirm a State Government commitment of $15m, which later became $18m. 

They took Leigh Matthews, then Lions Deputy Chairman, to Canberra for a meeting with representatives of the Scott Morrison Federal Government and secured a further $15m. Later, they added $20.6m in funding from the Ipswich City Council and $8m from the AFL.


Finally, it was go time. Anson, Queensland Young Planner of the Year in 2015 and winner of the AFL’s ‘Play to Win’ staff award assumed a full-time role with the Lions in January 2019. 

In the months following funding confirmation he focussed primarily on agreements, approvals and design, and in the first half of 2020 preliminary works began.

The site was flood-proofed, a creek which ran through the site was relocated, and electricity, water and sewerage were installed. And in April 2021 construction work began on the first purpose-built AFLW and women’s field sport facility in Australia.

Significantly, it is the first gender-equal facility in the country, with all facilities provided for the AFL program replicated for the AFLW program, right down to the fact that the office of AFL coach Chris Fagan in the men’s section is exactly the same as that of AFLW coach Craig Starcevich. Everything is identical, right down to the 50 lockers in each section.

According to Anson, it has been architecturally designed to trace and incorporate the history of the Brisbane Bears and Fitzroy FC.

The main oval, to be known as Michael Voss Oval in honour of the Lions’ triple premiership captain, is the centrepiece of a facility that will accommodate 10,000 spectators under 1000-lux lighting.

There is a 600-seat grandstand that is a replica of the old Kevin Murray Stand at Fitzroy’s long-time Brunswick Street headquarters. It is built in old Fitzroy red brick and accommodates first-class broadcast and media facilities that will make the Lions a preferred option for prime-time AFLW game slots in preference to less appealing mid-afternoon slots.

Even the white picket fence that surrounds the oval was custom designed, with Bears and Fitzroy logos in the precinct metal work.

Fig trees in the gardens have been propagated from trees in Fitzroy’s Carlton Gardens that link right back to ex-Fitzroy player Sir Douglas Nicholls, the first Indigenous Australian to be knighted after whom the AFL’s Indigenous Round is named.

Upstairs features lots of weatherboard, VJ timber and subtropical vegetation to give the offices and function spaces a real Queensland feel.

It is an elite performance centre of the highest quality, with a gym that is the equal biggest in the AFL, on a par with those at Geelong and West Coast, and the second-biggest indoor oval, just smaller than that of Essendon. There are cutting-edge medical and recovery facilities, including a lap pool and hot and cold baths.

There is an extensive community gym and pool area, thanks to their partnership with TotalFusion, that Lions athletes will access, featuring hot yoga and Reformer Pilates, a spin room, infra-red saunas, cryotherapy and float tank, and a sports nutrition-focused café, ‘Wilde Kitchen’ including a bar.

Lions Academy squads will have their own space and the Club has plans to build a childcare centre and possibly a barber’s shop on campus.

Upstairs there is working facilities for the Lions staff, plus function rooms, a public auditorium and meeting rooms. 

It has been a process of regular and close consultation with the senior management team, which has relished the support and assistance of Tim Forrester, Lions Board Member and Managing Director of award-winning Aria Property Group. 

“Wherever possible we’ve used corporate supporters and club sponsors as contractors and suppliers to give them some skin in the game and remind them they are an important part in building something very special,” said Anson.

In another a massive plus, the facilities will be available to the Lions 24 hours a day. This is in contrast to the Gabba, where they are forever sharing facilities with cricket and often find the playing arena off limits. A second oval will be built in stage two of the project, expected in 2024.\

And for long-time doubters, it is barely a 30-minute drive from the Gabba.

In a word, it is magnificent!

Thanks to our friends at Youi for bringing this series to life.