19 November 2018

Canberra's lost sporting facilities: Part 2

| Tim Gavel
Join the conversation
Hawker Tennis Centre in disuse. Photo: Tim Gavel.

Hawker Tennis Centre. Photos: Tim Gavel.

In the wake of the response to last week’s column about the loss of Canberra sporting facilities, I have been moved to further investigate the changing nature of sporting facilities in our older suburbs.

Last week my focus was the City Bowling Club, which has fallen into disrepair and is now an eyesore as it awaits redevelopment.

Many people wrote to me to tell me about similar problems in their suburbs as sporting facilities, no longer operational, await their fate.

Police Youth Club, boarded up. Photo: Tim Gavel.

Police Youth Club, Turner.

There were several respondents who inquired about the Turner Police Citizens Youth Club. This building is boarded up still awaiting redevelopment. It has been this way for many years after the PCYC relocated to Charnwood in 2006.

Hawker Tennis Centre in a state of disrepair. Photo: Tim Gavel.

Hawker Tennis Centre.

Another concern was the state of the Hawker Tennis Centre, which ran as a viable operation for many years with Bruce Larkham running the show. The Centre is no longer operating and is now boarded up, also awaiting developers.

The Deakin Bowling Club hasn’t been operating as a club for years and is also fenced off.

Deakin Bowling Club is no longer functioning as a bowling club. Photo: Tim Gavel.

Deakin Bowling Club.

One of the reasons why sporting facilities are left in this state for longer than any other redevelopment is the need to change the lease.

I received a number of questions about why many sports grounds are now looking worse for wear. The simple answer is the cost of water, which has made it prohibitive to maintain grounds as they once were.

There is also concern about the fate of existing facilities currently operational but facing an uncertain future.

The Woden Community Council has expressed concern about the future of the Phillip ice rink and pool.

The Philip Swimming Pool underwent refurbishment during the winter months. Photo Tim Gavel

The Philip Swimming Pool underwent refurbishment during the winter months.

It is my understanding that the pool is not financially viable and will become even less so when the new Molonglo Aquatic Centre is built. As such, and with little confidence in the facility generating profits in the future, major upgrades on the Phillip facility are not envisaged.

The ice rink also faces an uncertain future with moves to build a new ice sports complex at Tuggeranong.

The overall cost of running the Phillip ice rink and the pool is high even though the costs are kept as low as possible because of the way ice rinks and pool heating work together.

It still costs about $200,000 in electricity each year.

So what happens to the facility once the Molonglo pool is built and the proposed ice sports centre becomes a reality?

The problem many residents in suburbs with disused sporting facilities face, apart from the loss of the facility in the first place, is the eyesore created by non-operational centres such as bowling clubs and tennis courts.

This can go on for years because of the time it takes to change the lease on sporting facilities for redevelopment as apartments and the like.

Has the time come to move with more speed and efficiency on existing lease changes or will this simply create the environment whereby more sporting facilities become high-rise developments?

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

I really appreciated Tim’s photos to show the current state of some of the Cities sporting facilities. I have linked to some other photos below.

I mentioned previously how my son and his mates used to use the Basket Ball courts and school ovals to kick footballs around Kambah every single afternoon. Sadly the ACT Government took these facilities away, one by one from the Suburb. Have a look at these Google Maps photos to see just some of the sporting facilities that Community has lost over the last Decade. Someone else must have photos of the huge Mpowerdome sports centre lost in Fadden or some of the free public Tuggeranong asphalt tennis courts we used to play at. I don’t live in Kambah anymore, but I still feel for my former community who lost so many schools, services and public facilities.


Woden Valley Community Council8:59 pm 21 Nov 18

The WVCC is advocating for a National Ice Sports Centre to be located in Woden. There is no need to move the ice rink from Woden. We have already lost our basketball stadium, bowling greens, tennis courts, pitch n putt and at one stage we had a bowling alley. We have also lost the CITs from both Woden and Weston.
Sporting teams located in Woden, Weston, Molonglo and the Inner South do not have an indoor sports facility for basketball, netball, futsal, gymnastics, roller derby etc … the use of school halls means these teams have to be located across a number of sites. The town centres are supposed to be social and economic hubs with community facilities to bring people together to create activity and life in the centres.

“I received a number of questions about why many sports grounds are now looking worse for wear. The simple answer is the cost of water, which has made it prohibitive to maintain grounds as they once were.”

I get a little frustrated of hearing this one, time and time again.

Where clubs/sporting groups want to access water from the mains to water their facilities (often only open to their direct members for use), why precisely should they get water that is fit for drinking (i.e. potable water) at a rate different to the rest of the community – which is what is always the answer suggested by these groups as a way to solve this particular issue. With the way water is priced – if those sporting clubs were suddenly given cheaper water under some new tariff structure, the rest of the community ultimately will subsidise these lower prices by facing higher prices themselves. Icon Water at the end of the day still is going to be allowed a certain amount of revenue by the independent regulator. Hence all you end up with is inefficient cross subsidisation.

I also do wonder how many of these groups have actively explored other options available – such as installing artificial surfaces where reasonable (such as lawn bowls), or where possible, exploring possible secondary water options (such as some golf clubs have) – that could provide a water source at a vastly lower cost compared to using potable water, while also improving the efficiency of their facilities. Not always easy I accept but I don’t think unachievable for too many either.

The ‘water is too expensive’ is a lazy excuse for mine. Only where all other options have been explored, then one could argue there is a justification for increased government assistance….

Charlie Turner11:16 pm 21 Nov 18

The cost of water argument in my view is not unreasonable. The two tiered structure means that the cost nearly doubles after you use 50kL per 90 days. For a household this could be ok but for a business (especially a water intensive one) 50kL is nothing. $5 for every 1000 litres is the highest water price in the country.

I agree with Charlie, the Water charges are an issue especially for the not for profit sporting groups which are the vast majority of affected cases.

The ACT Government has often waived fess and taxes to property Developers to encourage new building and also gives many grants to various ‘for profit’ business, transport and property groups.

I don’t understand why the Government thinks that hitting sporting clubs and removing sporting grounds and facilities, is a good way to promote healthier lifestyles for the Canberra public.

Fair enough BJ and Charlie.

So I would assume you both would be happy to either:
– pay additional taxes/revenues/rates to Government, if direct subsidies were provided to such groups?
– pay higher water prices for domestic use (say $6 or $7 a litre for the top tier), so to subsidise the rate paid by those community groups.

That’s the end game of providing water to them at lower costs.

As I said, I’m not against government assistance where these groups have taken all reasonable steps to reduce their reliance on potable water – but many have not even attempted to take those steps….. prove that and a reasonable case can be established for support, where all reasonable attempts have been made to reduce as far as possible potable water use.

But tied to that, in my opinions if Clubs and everyone else wants Government subsidies to support their costs, then they should ensure facilities are available to all, when not being used for their core activity. This comment is not aimed at obvious areas where that isn’t easily possible (like Golf Clubs for instance), but sporting groups that want government support for their facilities (such as enclosed ovals), but then want to restrict community access to their facilities when they are not being used. If the community is expected to support their provision of such facilities, a reasonable right of access should be provided in a proper two way street arrangement.

My response to your comment is to give the struggling youth based sporting clubs a subsidy or charge dispensation ahead of public money to property developers or businesses. Then it will be revenue neutral to me and you as a taxpayer.

I agree with you on opening up access to these facilities (and I never said otherwise). I don’t agree however with your thoughts of Charlie, you or I paying extra taxes instead of cutting back subsidies for property developers.

I want a Government who taxes and spends wisely to benefit the health, wellbeing and amenity for the majority of Canberrans, not just the people who help them win elections.

Charlie Turner7:40 pm 23 Nov 18

I dont agree with the premise of your argument. I dont think that Icon should get any more money in total, The problem at the moment is that the fixed charge is far, far too low and the charges based on actual usage are too high. There needs to be some sort of shift towards higher standing charges because the money is in the pipes. It is also unfair that their Tier break where it doubles in price for every customer in the ACT is based on only 50kl per 90 days.

Charlie – the ICRC did substantial work just last year to review the tariff structure, and had a draft proposal to do exactly what you suggested (A much higher fixed tariff and lower volumetric tariffs) and certain segments of the community screamed and squealed . Hence it went off the table – it is not a viable approach in at least the short to medium term (though the fixed fee is being increased somewhat over the next few years but not nearly enough to make significant differences to volumetric prices).

In the absence of that approach being accepted as a viable mechanism, if you decide to significantly reduce the volumetric rates for large volumetric water users, then invariably the rest of the users will pay for it through higher prices in some form (most likely higher volumetric charges). I never suggested Icon Water would get more revenue – its simply how the regulatory model works in the ACT.

.”I don’t agree however with your thoughts of Charlie, you or I paying extra taxes instead of cutting back subsidies for property developers.
I want a Government who taxes and spends wisely to benefit the health, wellbeing and amenity for the majority of Canberrans, not just the people who help them win elections.”

Your comment goes far beyond my point – I don’t disagree with your suggestion that spending less in some other areas may be preferable. But I wasn’t making judgment in any form of where money is currently spent or not spent – more that is ultimately what governments invariably do in such circumstances… i.e. where they spend more they make up for it with more revenue from somewhere. And we all know what their favourite mechanisms are at the moment.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.