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Clubs cry foul on stadium but ACT Government has made the right call

Ian Bushnell 20 October 2019 48
Canberra Stadium

Canberra Stadium still has life in it despite its disadvantages compared to a new complex in a city location. Photos: File.

The ball may be up in the air when it comes to a new stadium for Canberra but at least it is still in play.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr would be perfectly within his rights to kick it into touch and blow full-time on the current debate, having much bigger issues for his government to deal with.

The reaction from the Raiders and Brumbies to news in the Government’s Infrastructure Plan that Exhibition Park had emerged as a potential stadium site instead of Civic, and that a stadium would have to wait its turn in the infrastructure queue, was predictable.

Both codes want a 25,000 seat stadium in the city, in a central location close to restaurants and bars (as is the trend elsewhere), They say EPIC would be just as hard to get to as Bruce.

This is understandable, but their preferred site – Civic Pool – is simply too small and problematic and no other suitable sites are available unless, of course, you take the cheeky position that there is already a rectangular football field in the city – in Braddon. But the Raiders aren’t about to co-locate their Centre of Excellence at Northbourne Oval with a stadium.

Perhaps it’s also a reflection of Canberra’s relatively compact geography that EPIC is being rejected as being ‘out of the way’ when it is only 6 km from Civic and 13 minutes by light rail.

It would be remiss of the Government not to consider EPIC, especially as it has ruled out residential redevelopment there and committed to transforming it into the city’s major event precinct.

With 77 hectares of open space, why wouldn’t you take a look?

The other issue is the sheer cost of a new stadium. The Plan says it could be anywhere between $250-500 million and will no doubt need a private sector partner or Commonwealth support to see it built.

With hospital expansion, ensuring Canberra’s transport network keeps up with the city’s growth, and keeping roofs over people’s heads on the government’s dance card, it is hard for a new stadium to compete.

Mr Barr has acknowledged that by the mid-2020s Canberra will need a new stadium, but for now Bruce “may not be the best in the country but it’s not the worst”.

As it is, the Plan has up to $50 million earmarked to keep it running until the window opens for another option.

Mr Barr rightly has put a new Canberra Theatre, built when the city was home to just 80,000 people, ahead of a new stadium.

While a stadium is vulnerable to the vagaries of sporting seasons – we love winners but tend not to turn up when the wooden spoon is in the offing – the theatre is an all-year crowd puller that not only serves Canberra but draws regular busloads from throughout the region.

A stadium may be suitable for big-name concerts, which do not have a great track record in Canberra, but the theatre caters for a range of performances and productions.

It really is an economic generator in the city’s heart but is tired and in desperate need of redevelopment as part of a new cultural precinct and the general renewal of Civic from Braddon to Acton.

Mr Barr, perhaps fishing, says the only way the stadium project could be fast-tracked would be if an investor with long pockets put their hands up, and maybe that’s something the clubs and sporting bodies could help with.

But there still remains the issue of where to put it.

Complicating the picture is the fact that the ACT Government rents Canberra Stadium from the Commonwealth, which may decide to sell or redevelop that site.

The fans would all like somewhere more convenient, sheltered, and, in the winter, warmer to watch their favourite teams go round but it is a matter of choices on a limited budget, and believe it or not, not everyone is sports-mad.

The Raiders and Brumbies, which operate with significant Government and taxpayer support, need to accept economic reality, bide their time and work with the Government for the best possible outcome.


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48 Responses to Clubs cry foul on stadium but ACT Government has made the right call
Capital Retro Capital Retro 9:57 pm 24 Oct 19

“Canberra is a long way behind every other city of note in the world and will continue to remain so until a stadium…………”

Absolute nonsense.

Greg Dennis Greg Dennis 6:31 pm 24 Oct 19

Did someone from the government’s PR section write this piece? The Chief Minister has no intention of building a stadium in the city (where it should go) or anywhere else for that matter. He’s kicking it down the road for the next government to deal with. All cities worth their salt have a stadium to be proud of built close to amenities. It provides the infrastructure for the very soul. The reason support is thin in lean times is because of the stadiums location and the sub-standard experience. As a capital city, Canberra is a long way behind every other city of note in the world and will continue to remain so until a stadium (and dare I say) an international conference centre are part of its DNA. Until then it will remain a place schoolchildren visit once in their lives.

Greg Dennis Greg Dennis 6:28 pm 24 Oct 19

It’ll take an hour and a half by pushbike from where I live. Cars will be banned in Canberra by that stage.

bernie bernie 11:50 pm 22 Oct 19

Well said Ian. This simply is not a first order priority.
The first world problems and self-interested reasoning our precious football fans use to justify an urgent new build are just laughable.

Gabriel Spacca Gabriel Spacca 2:50 pm 21 Oct 19

So if Exhibition Park In Canberra is redeveloped into a sporting venue, where will the events that are currently held there, be held?

Why does no one want to redevelop Bruce Stadium itself? Are we so pathetic that we can’t be bothered driving more than 1/2 hour to watch a sports event?

    Jon Billows Jon Billows 3:01 pm 21 Oct 19

    Gabriel Spacca the drive to the venue isn't the problem. It's the barren wasteland around it and the 1970s design. A redevelopment will not improve things. It would need to be completely demolished and rebuilt and require a substantial entertainment precinct to be built around it

    Gabriel Spacca Gabriel Spacca 3:41 pm 21 Oct 19

    Jon Billows My poor choice of words, but that’s exactly what I meant. What is the difference between demolishing the Canberra Pool area and building a new stadium with a substantial entertainment precinct around it, or demolishing EPIC and

    building a new stadium with a substantial entertainment precinct around it, and demolishing Bruce Stadium and

    building a new stadium with a substantial entertainment precinct around it? Other than the geographic location.

    Renea Hazel Renea Hazel 4:10 pm 21 Oct 19

    The sport IS the entertainment. When I go to the footy I want to get straight in and out and for young families I expect it would be similar. Anything built up around the stadium itself would just impede exit and entry to the event, just have a look at Olympic Park. Have you ever tried to get a cab following a major event at ANZ, or even a train where the crowds are 6 deep at the station? If people want to kick on (excuse the pun) afterwards) it's only a short trip down Barry Drive to the city and Action run heaps of buses to and from most events anyway.

    Patoneym Myenotap Patoneym Myenotap 5:45 pm 21 Oct 19

    Gabriel Spacca IF barre is set on a new sports stadium, why not demolish the Bruce stadium and rebuild the new stadium in its place

    Gabriel Spacca Gabriel Spacca 9:43 pm 21 Oct 19

    Patoneym Myenotap Read my first reply above.

chewy14 chewy14 2:07 pm 21 Oct 19

Have a look at the population distribution of Canberra and then try and assert that EPIC makes a good spot for the stadium.

In many ways it’s far worse than the current site at Bruce.

If the City site is not possible, then why not look further south and build the new stadium at the current Phillip football park site, which is both big enough and has the needed North South alignment.

Bethany Williams Bethany Williams 1:20 pm 21 Oct 19

I like the idea of EPIC being grown as a site for a new stadium. Maybe it could become another hub of entertainment in general. It could have restaurants, specialty shops, etc. The light rail stops in front, and parking spaces could be increased. It wouldn’t congest parking in the city. Costs of building would be saved as they wouldn’t be building over existing infrastructure, which increases the risk of a cost blow out. No size restrictions for the stadium.

It makes complete sense to me to build out there.

And put the savings into extending the light rail to the south side!

Justin Watson Justin Watson 12:29 pm 21 Oct 19

The thing is an election is due to occur in 2020. Surely by 2024 we should have a site and planning underway at the minimum. Whats really happening is Townsville got a federal government subsidised stadium because it is a marginal seat, so now the current hope is Labor wins the 2022 election and the 2020 ACT election and we get some federal taxpayer money to fund a new ACT stadium. What gets me is we turned down an unsolicited bid to upgrade Manuka as well! Also I'm glad we are getting a new theatre. A well functioning society needs all kinds of infrastructure.

michael quirk michael quirk 9:53 am 21 Oct 19

The timing of investment in a stadium should be determined after considering the merits of alternative infrastructure projects. To inform discussion the government should prepare/release the business case for a stadium, a new theatre and the extension of light rail. The governments commitment to light rail is obsessive and irrational given the low Benefit to Cost ratio. There is no urgent transport or city development need to extend the light rail to Woden. Given the improvements in high capacity bus technology it would be prudent to defer any consideration of the LR extension for several years. Such deferment would enable the upgrading of stadium facilities, the development of a new theatre and upgrading other infrastructure including the bus network, social housing and reducing roads. In 5 years it could be even more apparent than it is now that light rail, given its expense and disruption, is not an appropriate choice for the intertown public transport network.

Peter Hyde Peter Hyde 9:45 am 21 Oct 19

Civic makes a lot more sense that EPIC. There will eventually be two tramlines going close not one. Imagine the lines to get out of EPIC in the tram?

Jon Billows Jon Billows 9:25 am 21 Oct 19

I disagree. Bruce stadium IS the worst in the country

    Brent Sloane Brent Sloane 10:48 am 21 Oct 19

    Brookvale Oval is clearly the worst. By a margin.

    Renea Hazel Renea Hazel 4:15 pm 21 Oct 19

    How so? If you go to a football game there any weekend of the season barring a final you won't see it full to capacity and when it is close to capacity the atmosphere is much better than what you'd get at a larger stadium. You can also get so close to the action which you also can't get with a larger stadium. While there's obviously a wait to get in and out of the carpark if you drive, it's very easy to get to by car from anywhere in Canberra along the Parkway or Gungahlin Drive extension (in which respect you could argue it's actually more central than Civic) which wouldn't be the case if it were situated in the city area.

    Jon Billows Jon Billows 4:17 pm 21 Oct 19

    Renea Hazel go to bankwest, Adelaide oval or any modern stadium and you'll see how far away you are at Bruce.

    Please tell me all the wonderful locations you can walk to in Bruce if you have had a couple of drinks at the game.

    No one said it needs to be much larger. But definitely needs to be newer

Patoneym Myenotap Patoneym Myenotap 8:59 am 21 Oct 19

AND again how is master barre going get the millions of dollars to pay for this new stadium

I mean does a territory the size of Canberra need a sports stadium

And who's going to build it....Geocon

    Andrew Dudley Andrew Dudley 9:45 am 21 Oct 19

    Patoneym Myenotap we already have a sports stadium, what do you mean does an area with almost half a million people need a sports stadium?

    Patoneym Myenotap Patoneym Myenotap 10:18 am 21 Oct 19

    Andrew Dudley IT seems you don't read the Canberra Times, Mick Gentleman raised the idea of turning Epic into a housing estate but that knocked on the head ,then last Monday,it was suggested by master barre that Epic would be an ideal place for a sport stadium

    Andrew Dudley Andrew Dudley 10:48 am 21 Oct 19

    Patoneym Myenotap I do in fact read the Canberra times and am up to date with what’s been going on thanks. No one said it would be an “ideal” place, epic is being considered as a back up spot if civic doesn’t happen.

    “Does a territory the size of Canberra need a sports stadium” - you

    You seem to be under the impression we don’t currently have one, and if a new one is to be built I imagine the millions would come from the over $200 million made from taxes in the last financial year, as well as future revenue seeing as a new stadium wouldn’t begin construction for a few years at this point.

    But as the article states and anyone with common sense would know, a new stadium isn’t exactly important atm in the grander scheme of things.

    Patoneym Myenotap Patoneym Myenotap 10:56 am 21 Oct 19

    Andrew Dudley ACTUALLY how many if any stadiums does Canberra have

    Way I understand what you're saying is if there's only a half million people in Canberra then why do is master barre floating the idea of a sports stadium

    Andrew Dudley Andrew Dudley 11:23 am 21 Oct 19

    Patoneym Myenotap what does “why do is master barre floating the idea of a sports stadium” mean?

    Patoneym Myenotap Patoneym Myenotap 11:26 am 21 Oct 19

    Andrew Dudley WASN'T it master barre who said that building a new sports stadium

    Patoneym Myenotap Patoneym Myenotap 11:33 am 21 Oct 19

    Andrew Dudley I mean wasn't it barre who suggested the idea of building a sports stadium in epic

    Gabriel Spacca Gabriel Spacca 2:43 pm 21 Oct 19

    Patoneym Myenotap I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you’re not a palindromic botnet.

    What Andrew Dudley was pointing out is that Canberra already has a sports stadium, so it has already been decided that a territory the size of Canberra needs a sports stadium.

    The question now becomes, does the existing stadium need to be replaced and if so where is the best place for it?

    Andrew Dudley Andrew Dudley 3:18 pm 21 Oct 19

    Gabriel Spacca thank you, that is what I was trying to convey.

    Patoneym Myenotap Patoneym Myenotap 3:30 pm 21 Oct 19

    OK so I'm not as educated as most...but I do try get the right answers

    If Canberra already has a sports stadium why another one and where's going to go...hopefully not in Epic

    Because if it does,where is the entertainment going to go

    Andrew Dudley Andrew Dudley 6:16 pm 21 Oct 19

    Patoneym Myenotap our stadium was built in the 80s I believe, it wasn’t amazing to begin with, it’s small, generally outdated and not convenient for a lot of people to get too. Most people want civic for a new one but of course that would be expensive and take a while and people don’t like that either, epic is an ok back up because there is room to build a stadium without having to get rid of much, folk festival, lifeline book fair, handmade markets etc... could still happen there fine with a stadium. But then it’s far north so that won’t make a lot of southsiders happy. I’ve seen other people saying Manuka could be good or somewhere nearby that is central and close to pubs and public transport. Also I’m pretty mostly soccer fans want a new stadium so we can get our own team and have A-League teams come to Canberra more often.

    Patoneym Myenotap Patoneym Myenotap 6:42 pm 21 Oct 19

    AS I said before,why not tear down the Bruce stadium and rebuild it there

Gwyn Rees Gwyn Rees 8:46 am 21 Oct 19

Clubs cry foul? Or rather are they seeking a level playing field and to not be treated like second class citizens to a not Canberra AFL side.

Greater Western Sydney or GWS, get $2.3 million of taxpayers money - a team as the name makes clear, has nothing to do with this city. So with regard, to the stadium location what is wrong with our actual teams – The Canberra Raiders and Brumbies seeking the same opportunities as this non-Canberra team. The GWS get to play at Manuka – a central location.

Given the RIOTACTs own poll on Canberra’s favourite sporting team, where I think GWS pulled a massive 11% - maybe it is time to assess, how Government funds are being spent on this elite side and sport more generally.

As an example, the ACT Government only gives $2.5 million to community sporting groups, whilst giving $2.3 million to GWS. Does that seem right? This is money that could otherwise be freed up for something like what is being suggested or just go to our own grassroots community sporting groups.

Finally, to the author’s point… “the Raiders and Brumbies, operate with significant Government and taxpayer support.” With respect, you haven’t represented that $ number in this article and it isn’t the $2.3 million the GWS get. It is a number, I think the readers should have, as I believe it comes via concessions and not cash.

And yes not everyone is sports mad, but if we are spending on sport maybe its time Canberran’s get their say and to be the judge of whether Government is making the right calls.

    Scott Welsh Scott Welsh 10:04 am 21 Oct 19

    Gwyn Rees a far too reasonable response!

    Bethany Williams Bethany Williams 1:24 pm 21 Oct 19

    Gwyn Rees very well said! 👍🏻👏🏻

    Shan Weereratne Shan Weereratne 4:15 pm 21 Oct 19

    Gwyn Rees, well said. GWS is and will never be a Canberra entity. As I have said in prev posts, GWS could have shown some commitment by at least calling themselves GWS-Canberra. I guess we Canberrans would be expected to cough out more money for that privilege. It was no secret that very few got excited when they hit the GF and very few cared when they performed so poorly in the final. Compare that with the recent buzz and sadness when the Raiders were deprived of the title. Barr will continue channelling our money into an interstate AFL team but this city will always remain a Rugby entity with or without government support.

    Dory Johns Dory Johns 5:05 pm 21 Oct 19

    Gwyn. That's $2.3m A YEAR that the ACT taxpayer contributes to the GWS. We are now 8 years into a $23 million 10-year deal to host three of GWS' regular season matches and one pre-season game in the capital each year. And more to come out of taxpayers' pockets.

Vander Leal Vander Leal 8:37 am 21 Oct 19

What a biased article...

"the super compact geography of Canberra", a city planned to be spread is now super compact? lol... Yeah, let's put more things down to accommodate an unnecessary stadium in Civic... Too sad they lost the opportunity to use Braddon Oval eh?

    Jeff Smith Jeff Smith 1:19 pm 23 Oct 19

    I believe the Braddon site is 13,000 square meters smaller than the pool site (which also has scope for expansion) and Braddon oval site not as well suited to the traffic and access infrastructure required for a proper sports stadium, rather than its use as a smaller capacity sporting field.

Steve Wood Steve Wood 8:33 am 21 Oct 19

So will Andrew Barr return all the travel allowance and cost of his fact finding (atmospheric recons) that he reportedly visited. From memory an article reported he had visited 20 stadiums around the world??? Wasting tax payers money is all this ACT Labor/Green coalition is good for and alas it would appear we have no suitable options to turn to 🤔in my opinion😕

    Andrew Dudley Andrew Dudley 9:44 am 21 Oct 19

    Steve Wood that paragraph accurately sums up the state of too many Australian politicians 😪 so much wasted on mostly unnecessary travel

Geoff Richardson Geoff Richardson 8:23 am 21 Oct 19

They should have built a new stadium in Braddon (ACT Leagues Club) site in the 90's when it was on the agenda IMHO!

    Steve Smith Steve Smith 9:03 am 21 Oct 19

    Geoff Richardson thanks, that really helps the discussion.

    Geoff Richardson Geoff Richardson 10:25 am 21 Oct 19

    Steve Smith thanks, but when I want your opinion I'll give it to you!

    Jeff Smith Jeff Smith 1:19 pm 23 Oct 19

    I believe the Braddon site is 13,000 square meters smaller than the pool site (which also has scope for expansion) and Braddon oval site not as well suited to the traffic and access infrastructure required for a proper sports stadium, rather than its use as a smaller capacity sporting field. Although it would have been a great location.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 7:58 am 21 Oct 19

“…. ‘out of the way’ when it is only 6 km from Civic and 13 minutes by light rail.”

Wow, that a paint blistering average speed of 21.5 kph!

Kenrick Winchester Kenrick Winchester 7:51 am 21 Oct 19

Corey Karl Corey Karl 7:25 am 21 Oct 19

He was never going too.... just riding along with the public support whilst canberra teams are doing well !!!

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