The future of a new flagship stadium in the ACT lies in Bruce, linked to a rejuvenated Australian Institute of Sport precinct and other public institutions, including the new northside hospital, according to an ACT Government submission to a federal parliamentary inquiry.
Essentially a pitch to the Commonwealth for greater collaboration on ACT infrastructure needs, the submission acknowledges the current stadium is reaching the end of its useful life and does not meet contemporary design standards for a facility of its importance and use.
But the government still sees Bruce as the best location for a new facility despite the campaign from its main users, the Canberra Raiders and the ACT Brumbies and their national bodies, the NRL and Rugby Australia, for a stadium in the city.
The submission does not mention alternative sites, but Chief Minister Andrew Barr has been consistent about his view that the proposed Civic pool site is too small, a city project poses major design issues and it would cost too much.
The submission states a renovated or rebuilt stadium at Bruce will be part of a wider ecosystem of facilities there.
“There is a significant opportunity for the ACT and Australian governments to partner to revitalise the AIS precinct,” it states.
“This project could see upgrade and refurbishment of the AIS existing elite sporting facilities, a significantly renovated or rebuilt Canberra Stadium, as well as mixed-use development supporting new housing and business outcomes.
“The site’s proximity to the new northside hospital, the University of Canberra and the Canberra Institute of Technology’s Bruce campus mean there are opportunities in terms of innovation, education, health and health sciences, and productivity.”
This suggests the ACT Government believes this route is the best way to leverage the necessary Commonwealth support for a stadium project costing hundreds of millions of dollars.
The submission comes ahead of an expected announcement from the ACT Government and the AIS before the ACT Budget is handed down on 27 June.
The ACT Government has come under sustained pressure to build a new stadium, preferably in the city.
The NRL this month claimed the dated stadium at Bruce meant Canberra would miss out on big games and international fixtures, prompting Mr Barr to fire back that it should put its money where its mouth is.
The ACT Government also made a bid for Commonwealth funding to boost the capacity of Manuka Oval, the city’s main AFL and cricket ground.
“Sustained investment by the ACT Government over the past decade has sought to make Manuka Oval the best boutique venue in Australia. But there is still potential to be unlocked,” the submission states.
“For example, redevelopment of the eastern grandstand and upgrading spectator amenities would help realise this ambition.”
The submission notes that historically, the ACT has not received the level of federal investment into community-level infrastructure as other jurisdictions.
It adds that the ACT Government is the sole government investor in the ‘Home of Football’ project at Throsby, while similar projects in Western Australia, NSW and Victoria have received significant federal funding.
Greater Commonwealth input will further realise the sporting potential of Canberra, as well as the associated economic benefits, the submission states.
The Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories, chaired by Member for Canberra Alicia Payne, is inquiring into ways to foster and promote the significance of Australia’s national capital.