21 March 2024

Bruce plan not perfect but stadium spruikers forget who'll be paying for it - us

| Ian Bushnell
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Raiders fans at Canberra Stadium

Still standing: Canberra Stadium may be nearing the end of its life, but it will probably have to do for another decade. Photo: Raiders.

There was literally a stink about the adequacy of Canberra Stadium at Bruce last weekend.

A pump had failed, a sewage pit was full to the brim and the smell was ghastly.

But as a former prime minister once said, “Shit happens”.

However, the event did provide the opportunity for Raiders coach Ricky Stuart to launch into a familiar tirade about the desperate need for a new stadium.

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The other code that calls Bruce home, the one they allegedly play in heaven, had a hell of a win at the Otago Highlanders’ House of Pain in Dunedin, which happens to have a roof.

That prompted another call for any new stadium in Canberra to have one and hang the cost.

Then ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury, seeking more brand differentiation in an election year, raised the obvious point that there were a few other things that the ACT needed, and his party was reconsidering its position on the stadium and where it sits in the list of priorities.

The Raiders’ and Brumbies’ frustrations are understandable. The current feasibility study for a 30,000-seat facility at Bruce is the seventh and they have no faith that it will materialise.

They would still prefer a city location, but Chief Minister Andrew Barr has ruled that out. It just won’t fit on the proposed Civic pool site and other challenges make it prohibitive. That’s why you have a feasibility study.

The government has returned to Bruce where it sees synergies with the Australian Institute of Sport and believes a stadium will fit into plans for developing a wider Bruce precinct.

The Federal Government’s confirmation that the AIS will stay in Canberra and be revitalised provides certainty that this can happen under whatever deal the ACT can strike with the Commonwealth, including land for housing.

The ACT will be looking for whatever offsets it can find to help fund a new stadium, and the Commonwealth will pitch in for what will be an at least half-billion-dollar build and probably a more realistic $700-800 million price tag, and even more if you want the luxury of a roof.

The May Federal Budget might give some indications about where the AIS and the Bruce precinct are headed.

What people have to remember, though, is what Bruce and Canberra may look like in the coming decades.

Unfortunately, a new stadium will have to wait its turn behind the Canberra Theatre development, for which some cash from the Feds would also be appreciated, the Convention Centre and Entertainment Pavilion, and a new Northside Hospital.

That’s the back end of the coming decade.

Mr Barr and the PM may be mates, but a few hundred mill for a stadium just to help ACT Labor in an election year would stretch the friendship, although the Budget may set the scene.

What the stadium spruikers gloss over is asking taxpayers to fund a facility that is notoriously difficult to pay its way and stands idle for much of the year even if it finds a place on the concert circuit.

There is also no point in having a stadium that could price average footy fans, who can watch every game from the comfort of their lounge room, pub or club, out of the market.

After all this time, it is no surprise that the NRL, Rugby Australia or some beneficent private consortium have not seen the urgency of the situation and come to the party.

It’s a bit much to expect the government of a revenue-challenged jurisdiction that still expects first-rate health and education systems and is trying to build a public transport system that will serve a growing national capital for decades to come to put a new football stadium before everything else.

Canberra Liberals leader Elizabeth Lee might like to console the football franchises and fans, put the boot into Mr Barr and talk about how a city stadium is still on the table if they are elected, but does anybody really believe that a Liberal Government committed to getting the budget back to surplus will magic up the money for a stadium, in the city?

The Civic pool site won’t work, so where else are they looking? Carving out a chunk of Commonwealth Park?

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Not proceeding with light rail stage 2B won’t mean a Liberal Government will suddenly be rolling in cash, and putting the Canberra Theatre development, for which there is a solid business case, or the needed new hospital on hold would not be a vote winner.

We would all love a new stadium, Mr Barr included, but as always, it comes down to priorities, the huge price tag, and the contribution the Commonwealth can make.

The Bruce plan may not be perfect, but it’s the best chance for a new stadium to actually be built within a decade while we have a federal government that is more disposed towards the national capital.

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GrumpyGrandpa8:35 pm 22 Mar 24

Whether its Stadiums or LR, its the taxpayer’s pocket that takes the hit.

It’s very easy for those with grandiose ideas to spend other people’s money.

Just because you have some concern about cost, and perhaps prejudices, doesn’t necessarily make it ‘grandiose’. Your example of LR has already proven itself otherwise.

Tom McLuckie6:10 pm 22 Mar 24

Yes Chris, but the Auditor General report in 2019 said the benefit was around $160M, which for a spend of $1.6B is a very low return. A stadium and in particular one with a roof would bring in considerable benefits, events, concerts and so forth able to be used by the whole community, not just those who happen to live on a tram line that takes them to work.

Nick Stevens4:52 pm 22 Mar 24

Why does it have to be a stadium ?
Footy field with a raised hill around it would be suffice.
NRL an Yawnion want to kick in, make it a bit more snazzy.

Darren Goddard2:03 pm 22 Mar 24

Live in South Canberra and want to go to the footy and have a drink and cheer your team on? Not if you want to be responsible and catch public transport. At least an hour to get home from a game is sub-optimal with a few beers pulling on the bladder! We saw the failures of the government’s so called public transport system with the Enlighten Sunday debacle.

Wave the flag for the North and the white-collar worker Ian! Not like there is already a divide between what the North and South are provided. A centrally located stadium is key. This Government has failed South Canberra, particularly the deep south. The kids and young adults out there are crying out for things to do and places to go, instead petty crime (and in some cases not so petty!) keeps them occupied.

Margaret Freemantle1:23 pm 22 Mar 24

Canberra needs a stadium desperately. We virtually don’t have one with the State of Bruce. The Government has changed rules so housing can be built on the Catholic land at Curtin so why not build it where the Archbishops house is. It would make sense for him to live near the Cathedral in Manuka.

If I had a choice where my rates went I’d absolutely be happy to pay for a new stadium over useless subsidised social housing for people who can’t pay their way in this city.

Andrew Cooke2:42 pm 22 Mar 24

Bit heartless don’t you think? How about we include social housing in the new development, that way the Raiders might get the stadium to at least half full on a good day

@Sam Oak
For someone who professes to be a Christian you have a very non-Christian ethic.

Yep Bushnell at it again with his hypocrisy across the various things he reports on.

He should be questioning projects that have a benefit of less than what they cost.

“What the stadium spruikers gloss over is asking taxpayers to fund a facility that is notoriously difficult to pay its way”

How does the author reconcile his position on a stadium with his constant support of light rail?

The light rail project similarly has economic assessments showing it too will not “pay its way” and that there are far cheaper options to achieve the same transport benefits. Yet the author thinks it should be a priority.

Listing a new convention centre and entertainment pavillion as another higher priority is also strange seeing as they notoriously don’t pay their way either.

Stop sucking on the government issued Koolaid on where infrastructure “priorities” are and at least have a consistent position on why certain projects might not be viable if you want to go down that route.

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