City of Newcastle has announced the start of work on a $5.8 million upgrade to No.1 Sportsground.
The project includes increasing the size of the field to cater for top-level AFL, resurfacing, concrete bleachers to seat 390 spectators, 750-lux lighting, drainage and a new fence, sightscreens and cricket square.
The council awarded a contract in July to Central Coast firm Scape Constructions to complete the project.
No.1 will be out of action until the middle of 2021, the ground's centenary year.
AFL tenant club Newcastle City will play at Wickham's Hawkins Oval until then.
AFL NSWACT's northern NSW regional manager, Simon Smyth, said on Monday that this year's Black Diamond Cup grand finals would most likely be played on the Central Coast.
Six 40-metre light poles will illuminate the ground for night cricket, but stronger temporary lights would be needed for televised games.
The council plans to include upgrades to the grandstand and change rooms in a second stage of improvements.
No.1 Sportsground dates back to 1921, when it was built on land formerly leased by Newcastle Racing Club as the city's first racecourse.
It was first known as National Park Sports Ground before the council changed the name to Newcastle Sports Ground two years later.
The grandstand was largely rebuilt after the 1989 earthquake.
The last first-class cricket match at the ground was in 2015.