The Canberra Liberals are aiming to kick goals with voters, reiterating their support for a city stadium and welcoming this week’s proposal from business and sporting groups for a combined convention centre and stadium precinct development in Civic East.
Well and truly staking out the electoral ground for the 2024 election, Leader Elizabeth Lee has sought to contrast the Opposition’s consistent position on supporting the city stadium idea with a “backflipping” Chief Minister.
“I’ve already said a couple of months ago on the record that a city stadium is firmly on the cards for the Canberra Liberals,” Ms Lee said.
“This idea has been floated around since 2009, when Andrew Barr was sports minister. So to drag the community and the stakeholders along for over 10 years, and then suddenly to drop a bombshell earlier this year to say it’s now off the table, is obviously going to have sent some shockwaves through the community that has worked really hard to try and convince governments.”
Ms Lee said it was clear the project would not happen under a Labor-Greens government.
“After spending 13 years stringing the Canberra public along the Chief Minister was very clear in June this year that it was impossible to build a stadium in the city,” she said.
“He then changed his argument during Estimates Hearings in August saying the main reason for not building a stadium was due to the fact it would be used so infrequently and would be a ‘dead space’ for much of the year.
“I find it astounding the Chief Minister has now come out and said he will examine the proposal for the inverted-bowl stadium in what is his third position on the matter in recent times, despite the Sports Minister on the same day saying there is no consideration for a city stadium.”
Ms Lee said a stadium in Civic and the surrounding infrastructure would bring economic benefits that would flow through to the entire city.
“We do want to prioritise infrastructure projects that will provide the best economic and social benefits for all Canberrans now and into the future.”
She said Canberra had missed out on and would struggle to attract major sporting events and artists because it did not have the appropriate infrastructure to be able to host national and international events.
“This is very important for the future of our city and I acknowledge the leadership from the Canberra sporting and business community in the absence of any meaningful direction from the Chief Minister,” Ms Lee said.
“The Canberra Liberals will continue to liaise with and work closely with various stakeholders on this issue.”
The new stadium/convention centre proposal aims to minimise the amount of taxpayer money governments need to commit to the project by seeking to unlock land at the AIS precinct in Bruce for development as a funding vehicle.
That depends on the Commonwealth coming to the party, something that would clash with the Australian Sports Commission’s ambition to revitalise the precinct.
The proposal says an inverted bowl stadium will fit on the Civic pool site and cost from $495 million to $736 million to build.
But Mr Barr believes it will be more like a billion dollars.