Long-awaited work on improving No.1 Sportsground will start in September, but the multimillion-dollar project will not be enough to attract Big Bash League or first-class cricket to Newcastle.
Newcastle council has called for tenders for the upgrade, which includes increasing the size of the field to cater for top-level AFL.
The project includes 390 tiered concrete seats on the Parry Street side of the ground, better lighting, resurfacing, drainage, a new fence and sightscreens, and a new cricket square.
The work will put the city's top cricket and AFL venue out of action for another year after it closed in the lead-up to the aborted KISS Supercars concert in November.
Cricket NSW chief executive officer Lee Germon said the upgrades were an "important step towards meeting the required standards for high-level cricket".
The improvements will leave the ground's cricket nets, change rooms, spectator amenities and broadcast and media facilities short of first-class cricket standard.
New 750-lux lighting will be a vast improvement but will not meet requirements for television broadcasts.
Other regional grounds have outstripped No.1 since Newcastle last hosted a first-class cricket match in 2014.
Coffs Harbour's sports stadium hosted 10,500 fans at a BBL game in January, and the Victorian country town of Moe, population 16,800, has hosted BBL games in the past two seasons.
Wollongong has hosted a Sydney Sixers trial match.
Cricket NSW Hunter manager Neil McDonald welcomed the No.1 Sportsground upgrades but said "other infrastructure" was needed for the ground to be a strong contender to host high-level cricket.
City of Newcastle said the works would allow No.1 to host pre-season AFL matches and "Big Bash-style" cricket.
"No.1 Sportsground has not seen a significant redevelopment such as this since it was constructed in 1922," lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes said.
The new concrete bleachers will increase the ground's seating capacity from 400 to 790.
Newcastle City AFL club is likely to play at Hawkins Oval until No.1 reopens.
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