Exhibition Park in Mitchell is being actively considered as a potential site for a new city stadium to replace the Bruce facility, according to the ACT Government’s Infrastructure Plan launched on Thursday.
Speculation about an alternative rectangular sports and entertainment arena to the 25,000 seat Commonwealth-owned Canberra Stadium has centred on the existing Civic Pool site on Constitution Avenue. However, the Infrastructure Plan says EPIC’s location on the light rail line and the availability of larger available sites among the 77 hectares of outdoor space may make it a more viable option.
The plan says a new stadium would cost $250-$500 million.
It says the pool site’s advantages include its connection to the city centre, but it may not be big enough and traffic issues may limit its feasibility.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr says that while a stadium in town might be ideal it will not fit on the pool site without moving Parkes Way, which requires Commonwealth approval.
He said an easier build might be at Bruce or at EPIC, which the Government had committed to revitalising. “You can drop a stadium into an existing precinct or you can build a precinct around it,” he said.
The plan says it may be better to co-locate a new stadium with other exhibition and community facilities at EPIC.
There has been intense lobbying for a new all-weather state-of-the-art city stadium to be built in a more convenient location than Bruce, and one that fits into a modern entertainment context.
Crowds at Raiders and Brumbies games in the deep of winter are falling as fans opt for the more comfortable surroundings of the big screens at clubs, pubs and home, rather than huddle together at the partially uncovered stadium at Bruce.
The Government has started scoping work on Canberra’s needs for a rectangular stadium beyond the 2020s capable of hosting domestic and international rugby league, rugby union and soccer games, as well as stage major concerts.
The plan says a new stadium would likely require a seating capacity of around 25,000, be compact enough to allow spectators to get up close to the action, support year-round use and have good access to public transport and parking.
The Government could also stick with the Bruce site, saying that it has an ample footprint for a new stadium.
But the plan says it is not well enough connected with existing retail and commercial precincts and there are limited facilities for efficient use of public transport. The ACT Government would also need to either purchase the site from the Commonwealth Government or enter into some other kind of land-use arrangement, it says.
Any decision will hinge on whether the Commonwealth opts to sell or redevelop the Bruce site, both of which it said this year it was considering.
The Government is not saying how a new stadium would be paid for, whether it be funded directly or in partnership with the private sector, but it will be behind the new Canberra Theatre Centre in the culture queue. The Theatre Centre is expected to be developed within the next five years.
Mr Barr said the Bruce stadium, though imperfect, was still adequate and would suffice until the mid-2020s. The only way for it to be fast-tracked would for an investor to come forward with a viable proposal.
The Infrastructure Plan commits to maintaining EPIC as Canberra’s ‘pre-eminent large format event space’ in the years ahead, which will be a relief to the Canberra Show and other big users such as the National Folk Festival.
As well as a new Canberra Stadium, the Government is looking at upgraded facilities to support major events like the Canberra Show, a large-scale venue suitable for hosting multicultural and other community events, and education and sports facilities supporting the growing Gungahlin region.
It is planning to spend $50 million there over the next five years and up to double that in the long term.