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.
“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.”
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.
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.”
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.