5 August 2020

Barr blows whistle on new stadium chatter after AIS says it's out of puff

| Ian Bushnell
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Brumbies playing the Rebels at Canberra Stadium

Canberra Stadium may be ageing but a replacement is a long way off. Photo: Tim Gavel.

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.

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I’m glad there will be no new stadium. I swim at Civic Pool and the thought that it will go to make way for a stadium is abhorrent. Surely a facility for people to take part in sport and keep fit is preferable to a place where people sit on their posteriors and stuff themselves with junk food.

If genuine plans had already been put in place for an alternate pool for the City somewhere (as was originally planned potentially at West Basin), I’d have no problem with the pool being moved from that site, as Civic Pool is old, decrepit and not really repairable. It must be part of any business case for a future stadium on that site though, that such facilities are replaced elsewhere.

James Savoulidis1:19 pm 06 Aug 20

“Mr Barr said there was much more room at Exhibition Park” what’s the point of building it there? If it ain’t in the city then they should just redevelop the current site in Bruce.

Barr is correct that now is not the time to be building a new stadium but his comments about locating it at EPIC are so far off the mark it’s ridiculous.

EPIC suffers from all the same problems that Bruce Stadium does.

It is difficult to access for the majority of the population and is not located anywhere near an entertainment precinct with bars, restaurants and other amenities to maximise on the crowds that such a sporting venue would create.

Thinking of EPIC as even a possibility just highlights how significantly Northside focused he and his government is.

Wouldn’t the argument in favour of EPIC be that it could have the potential to be developed as a precinct because the Government owns the land. All the stuff around Bruce is National (AIS) land isn’t it?

Also – no need to worry about ‘Guardians of the Lake’ or whatever they are called sooking it up because the stadium is too big (the site in the city would require NCA approval remember)

How could you create an entertainment precinct that’s so far away from any major commercial areas and disjointed from where people live?

It simply couldn’t survive.

And as above, it’s also extremely difficult for the majority of the population to get to, which defeats the entire reason for locating it centrally.

They’d be better off looking to build on the old Football park site in Phillip but the Civic pool site is far and away the superior choice.

The footy park site has been redeveloped and now the home for Cricket ACT.

Civic is appealing but are the NCA going to bite at it? If they do how much of a compromised arena (either for spectators or players) would we end up with?

Epic is on the tramline. Which by the time of any new stadium will have extended to woden. It’s also got two national highways running right past it.

I’m not saying it’s the best option. But it shouldn’t be ruled out

This project would be $200 million+. The work that has happened at Football Park would not preclude a stadium there.

And the light rail journey from Woden to Epic would be 45mins based on current planning. Let alone anyone further south.

Epic is woefully located for such a project and should be ruled out. Its no better than the existing Bruce site.

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