16 March 2022

Candidates take a stand as sporting facilities become pivotal in Senate race

| Max O'Driscoll
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Zed Seselja and Anthony Hill

Zed Seselja with Vikings Group Chief Executive Anthony Hill discussing his plans to bring a stadium to Viking Park. Photo: Supplied.

Canberra’s lack of quality sporting facilities is now a federal election issue.

Senators Zed Seselja and Katy Gallagher, as well as senate candidate David Pocock, have all weighed into the issue, one of the Territory’s most significant infrastructure concerns.

Earlier today, Senator Seselja revealed his plan to reinvigorate Wanniassa’s Viking Park.

“I’m working closely with the Vikings on securing a commitment to deliver a high-quality suburban stadium that can be enjoyed by families, and facilitate men’s and women’s professional and community sports here in Tuggeranong, including the possibility of hosting Super Rugby and A-league games, as well as being utilised by the Vikings,” Senator Seselja said.

“I’ve raised this proposal with senior levels of government, including the Prime Minister’s office, and been given a really good hearing to date, and I’ll continue knocking on my colleagues’ doors.”

He believes Canberra is “crying out for a new stadium” under the Barr Government.

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“The ACT Government has been in power for 20 years and has done next to nothing in this space, from community sports facilities right through to the professional-grade. They have completely failed to make any meaningful investments in sporting infrastructure,” Senator Seselja said.

“I’d still love to see a city stadium, but without the support from the ACT Government, it’s not getting off the ground. So instead of waiting around, I’m working on a really good solution we can deliver now and will be enjoyed by Canberrans for years to come.”

While agreeing that Canberra needs a city stadium, independent candidate David Pocock believes it should be a project driven by the Federal Government.

“Senator Seselja saying this needs to be ‘driven by the Territory’ is a cop-out. We are talking about a major piece of infrastructure for Australia’s capital city – and the federal government should be taking the lead as it has been more than happy to do elsewhere,” Mr Pocock said.

“Canberra is the least known capital city in the developed world, and it’s no wonder when our facilities are beyond the end of their useful life and no longer fit for purpose.

“We can’t host a lunch for more than 1,000 people, our indoor entertainment capacity maxes out at 1,800 and we have nothing approaching the sort of world-class facilities needed to attract major sporting, business and cultural events.”

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Mr Pocock also believes that an upgraded Viking Park could play an essential role in Canberra securing a stadium as a temporary home for the Raiders or the Brumbies. He did stress that the project should be in the city, at the site of the old Civic Pool, to help “revitalise a CBD hit hard by the pandemic”.

While the debate over the future home of the ACT’s rugby teams heats up, the UC Capitals revealed this morning that due to the AIS Arena’s forced closure, they will play their semi-final home game at Tuggeranong Stadium in front of around 1000 supporters.

Kelsey Griffin in action

The UC Capitals will be forced to play their semi-final at the Tuggeranong basketball stadium. Photo: UC Capitals.

General manager of the UC Capitals Lucille Bailie said that “Canberra’s most successful sports team” was disappointed that this was the result.

“The outcome of playing in a venue that will accommodate just over 1000 fans is less than ideal,” Ms Bailie said.

“We will do everything in our power to provide the league-leading home court atmosphere our athletes, members, supporters and sponsors deserve, but the real outcome we very much need is a dedicated playing and training venue.

“This is not a scenario we hope to see again, and we’re committed to ensuring disruptions such as this are not repeated in future.”

Commenting on the “current dilapidated state” of the AIS Arena, Senator Katy Gallagher pointed to the inaction of the Morrison Government.

“The fact that the Commonwealth and their Liberal Senator Zed Seselja refuse to provide a solution to this situation gives a very clear example of how much disdain the Liberals have for this city and our fabulous women’s sporting teams like the Caps,” Senator Gallagher said.

“We are engaging in constructive discussions with the ACT Government about what options exist both in the short and longer term.

“Canberrans deserve an arena for watching sport and for enjoying concerts. It has been the home of some of our most successful sporting teams, and we won’t just sit back and watch while the Liberals mothball the AIS Arena.”

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Mr Pocock also weighed in on the “mothballed” status of the AIS Arena, describing it as “symptomatic of the gross underinvestment” seen in the ACT.

“This is a federal government-owned facility and it being out of commission only adds to Canberra’s existing poor capacity to host major sporting and live music events,” he said.

“It is absolutely staggering that the Capitals – one of our most successful sporting franchises ever – don’t have a home venue in which to host the finals.

“I want to work collaboratively with both the Territory and Commonwealth Governments, regardless of who wins government at the next election, to get progress on these issues and outcomes that serve the best interest of the community.”

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And the race to outbid each other begins.
It’s a pity that the money they want to spend is borrowed. After a couple of years Covid deficits, we need to start paying down that mortgage.
Personally, I’m just not sure how Mr Pocock, as an Independent, thinks he’s going to deliver a stadium?

Quick! Someone give Zed a whiteboard!

Canberra sporting infrastructure has been an issue for a few years now. Where were Zed and Katy then? One was an ACT opposition leader and the other was a ACT Chief Minister. A bit rich to blame one another for the lack of Federal funding given that both major parties have had time in government during this issue. Mr Pocock has experience of Canberra Stadium first hand given that he spent not only some time playing there but also a lot of time sitting on the side lines in the cold like the rugby supporters. Adapting an existing sporting facility is a short term fix. Marketing a sporting team is difficult without the right facilities for both the sportsperson and their paying supporters.

Senate candidates clearly weighing in on the big issues.

How can we pork barrel more money to the benefit of major professional sporting leagues and teams.

If the ACT government want to prioritise building a stadium they can. But currently, their infrastructure priorities lie with mostly with light rail and the hospital. There’s not much left for anything else.

Upgrading Sieffert to a 15k seater makes us much sense as doing it to Tuggeranong. And being in a marginal electorate (both state and federal) means it’s more likely to happen.

Except no one from Canberra would travel that far for games and the public transport options are horrible, defeating the whole purpose.

Dude, it’s election time, it doesn’t have to make sense. Here’s one, they could also pledge to convert the heavy rail corridor to light rail and extend the light rail through to Civic junction. How much could that cost? Does it matter? These aren’t real commitments.

It needs to make political sense though.

Why would Queanbeyan residents want an upgraded stadium that no team would play at?

And if they did play there, it would cause massive traffic issues for locals.

And the council would then be on the hook for upkeep of the new ground.

Honestly, how many votes do you think would be in such a proposal?

Whilst Labor lost some ground at the by-election, they still won with the new candidate who now has incumbency. Trying to buy the seat isn’t worth what it would cost.

One thing you can trust Zed on he’s predictable!!

Capital Retro11:47 am 17 Mar 22

That is a good thing in times like this.

While I agree that the decline of the AIS is awful and the Federal Government should probably just release the site to the ACT Government, the Senators should beware of getting too embroiled in this issue- there are so many important things for them to be campaigning on and they risk alienating a large section of the population if all we hear about is sports stadiums.

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