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

Ian Bushnell 20 October 2019 25
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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25 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.

    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.

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!

    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

https://www.facebook.com/1051043698411067/posts/1283228818525886?sfns=mo

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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