19 July 2022

City stadium on backburner as big screens, upgrades on way for Bruce and Manuka Oval

| Ian Bushnell
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Canberra Stadium screen

One of the two big video replay boards at Canberra Stadium. Photo: ACT Government.

New video screens and upgrades for Canberra’s two main sporting arenas suggest a new city stadium is a long way off.

The ACT Government has issued a tender for the design and installation of a replacement video replay board for the ageing screen at the southern end of Canberra Stadium and a new VRB for the north-eastern section of Manuka Oval, as well as awarding an almost half a million dollar contract for upgrades to the Manuka Oval entries.

The new Canberra Stadium screen will be 155 square metres in size while the Manuka Oval one, located between the grounds keeper cottage and Jack Fingleton scoreboard, will be bigger at 180 sqm.

The $438,000 16-month contract for the Manuka entry upgrades has gone to Glascott Landscape & Civil.

A government spokesperson said the procurement process for the big screens would take some months to finalise.

“The Territory is working to have both screens operational as soon as practical however this will depend on the response from the market and the availability of the equipment,” the spokesperson said.

When it comes to a city stadium, which Chief Minister Andrew Barr insists could only be a 20,000 seat facility if it were to be built on the Civic pool site instead of the 30,000 seats required for international games, the government says major infrastructure priorities had not changed.

The government’s current priority is the development of the City Cultural Precinct, including a new Canberra Theatre Centre.

Although the election of the Albanese Government did provide an opportunity to re-engage with the Commonwealth on its plans for the AIS precinct.

“This will have a significant impact on any decision-making for the ACT Government on the future of Canberra Stadium,” the spokesperson said.

There had been some private sector approaches to government but these did not progress beyond initial discussions.

It is believed a private sector bid would seek some funding contributions from both the ACT and Commonwealth governments and/or a land grant.

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“But the market appetite for capital intensive, loss-making, investments is pretty low,” the spokesperson said.

That will disappoint NRL and Super Rugby fans who brave the chilly conditions in what they see as sub-standard facilities at Bruce to support the Raiders and Brumbies.

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart has publicly called for a new city stadium, saying the 50-year old Bruce facility is an embarrassment and seeing hope in the new Albanese Government.

Meanwhile, the ACT Government continues to pour millions into the current stadiums.

The 2021-22 budget allocated $8.059 million to Venues Canberra over two financial years for stadium works, including funding for the video replay boards and critical amenity upgrades.

Venues Canberra also receives about $1.5 million a year to maintain the facilities at Canberra Stadium, Manuka Oval and Exhibition Park in Canberra.

The tender for the big screens closes on 4 August.

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What is embarrassing is the continuing calls for a stadium that is pure indulgence and not essential. For the life of me I cannot understand why GIO Stadium is not fit for purpose. Not one good reason has ever been advanced why we need a new stadium in the city.

Bruce Stadium is an archaic embarrassment. A new stadium would pay for itself so would be a good investment. Barr and Rattenbury and Labor are nerds though who prefer to buy expensive trains. They are politically unassailable in Canberra so all we can do is expect more of the same.

Alex Smorhun10:37 pm 20 Jul 22

These improvements to manuka oval are good news. The present entry points are non functional and the proposed video screen will improve the games viewering experience the fans. More needs to be done though, specifically a covered grandstand on the eastern side of the oval and more food outlets/vans on game day. Anyway good to see things are progressing there.

Capital Retro5:27 pm 20 Jul 22

I already have my own big screen at my warm and comfortable home and I didn’t need any other ratepayer to contribute to the cost.

Of course the Civic stadium is on the back burner, it’s not an election year.

It will get proudly promoted by the government once again before the next election.

Indoor Ice sports Centre for Tuggeranong and the Civic stadium were very heavily espoused in the media and in candidate pamphlets before the 2016 and 2020 ACT elections and then things went very quiet afterwards.

But we get a useless Light Rail for way more money than a stadium would cost… great going Labour…

ChrisinTurner4:41 pm 20 Jul 22

The cost of the LR to Woden would build four stadiums.

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