When driving south along Commonwealth Avenue between the bridge and Civic, it’s easy to miss a Canberra sporting facility to the left that has generated more than its fair share of controversy during the years.
The architecturally designed concrete slab at Acton Park, on the banks of Lake Burley Griffin, has no buildings associated with it, no grandstands or other facilities. It’s just a concrete slab which has been there for almost 30 years.
It is hard to distinguish the futsal slab these days as it has become a car park. The site has been identified for development along the proposed corridor for Stage 2 of Canberra’s light rail project from Civic to Woden.
Originally, the slab was part of an ambitious plan to host international futsal events in Canberra.
Many people in Canberra were initially in the dark as to exactly what futsal was, let alone comprehend anything about the surface on which it is played.
There was public outcry after its construction by the ACT Government in the 1990s at an estimated cost of $300,000, although this figure is often disputed.
In the ensuing years, the facility struggled to establish an identity. But this is not because it has remained idle. On the contrary, it has been used for a number of diverse purposes not necessarily reflecting its original sport-based function.
During the years it has been part of the site for a circus; an exhibition tennis match; an overflow car park during Floriade and other events at Commonwealth Park; and the Westside Acton Park pop-up village with shipping containers.
Westside Acton Park was popular for a while with many people enjoying the lakeside venue.
Occasionally, the futsal slab was actually used for the game in which it was intended.
Ironically, futsal has grown enormously in popularity in Canberra, but it is mainly played indoors.
Nonetheless, the uses for the slab during the years provide evidence that even the ACT Government had trouble working out its purpose.
In the early days, questions were raised about the slab but interest has died down to the extent that a large percentage of the population have little knowledge of the intended use of the facility all those years ago.
However, the debate is now academic as the futsal slab will be no more thanks to the proposed development of the site for Stage 2 of the light rail project.