Chief Minister Andrew Barr has poured cold water on the possibility of a new football stadium being constructed in the national capital any time soon, calling the notion “fanciful”.
Mr Barr was responding to questions about how the recent listing of the Australian Institute of Sport’s Bruce precinct on Infrastructure Australia’s priority list, and its assessment as not fit for purpose, might affect the push for a new stadium to be built in the city to replace the ageing Canberra Stadium in Bruce.
He said the government might take the listing seriously when the Commonwealth announced an investment package to renew the AIS, but he doubted whether Canberra Stadium and the AIS Arena were first or second-order issues for it.
A feasibility study is being conducted on a future stadium for the ACT Government but Mr Barr said an investment announcement was a long way off.
”Frankly at this point, when only 1500 can attend per game and the most that would expand to is 25 per cent of capacity, in the middle of global pandemic, the idea that we would building something where 25,000, 30,000 people would sit next to each other just seems little bit fanciful,” he said.
Mr Barr said preliminary work showed that a constrained stadium could fit on the Olympic Pool site in the CBD but would require the shifting of a couple of roads by several metres.
The structure would be similar to Bankwest Stadium in Parramatta, with a very narrow footprint and steep seating, but Mr Barr said there was much more room at Exhibition Park where there were several sites that could deliver a different style of stadium.
But he reiterated that a stadium was low on the government’s infrastructure priorities and behind the redevelopment of the city’s cultural precinct for which planning was more advanced.
Sports Minister Yvette Berry said she had sought access to the AIS from her federal counterpart so the ACT could assess the condition of the campus.
The Infrastructure Australia listing, which had been proposed by the Australian Sports Commission and AIS, says the majority of facilities do not meet modern-day requirements and are expensive to maintain, with more than 15 of the facilities over 30 years old and not fit for purpose.
But Ms Berry said the ACT Government did not know what the actual issues were and could not even give a timeframe for any kind of renewal without that information.
”It’s disappointing that it’s been in this situation for some time now and something wasn’t done sooner,” she said.
”We want to be making sure we have a facility in the ACT for the short and medium term, and then look at a longer-term strategy about what kinds of facilities the ACT needs.”
The listing, which is more or less a pitch to government for funding, proposes redeveloping and modernising the AIS facilities.
”A broad range of infrastructure, technology and policy solutions should be explored to address the identified problems,” it says.
It says the proponent will identify initiatives and develop options for redevelopment.
The Commonwealth continues to review the future of the Bruce precinct, with suggestions that it could sell half the site, including the stadium, which the ACT Government leases, and the AIS Arena, and redevelop the rest in the next few years.