The developers behind a new ice sports facility in Canberra’s south hope to start construction by the end of the year after the ACT Government smoothed the way with a direct sale process for the land and a $16.2 million commitment to the project.
The ice sports community has been lobbying for such a facility to replace the ageing Phillip ice rink for nine years.
Today’s announcement will ease its anxieties about having a seamless transition to a new facility, particularly after property developer Geocon’s recent acquisition of the Phillip pool and ice rink site.
The new two-sheet facility is proposed to be built on a vacant block on Rowland Rees Crescent next to the Alpha Hotel in Greenway near the Town Centre, hopefully opening in 2025.
The government announced late last year that it would support the detailed proposal for the $45-50 million ice sports facility from Cruachan Investments and its development partner, Pelligra Holdings, following an expression of interest process and the signing of a Heads of Agreement.
It was also a 2020 election promise.
The facility will be known as the Canberra Arena and meet the needs of Canberra’s growing ice sports community and be home for the ACT’s national ice hockey champions CBR Brave, with the goal of becoming a national centre of excellence.
It will have two international standard ice sheets for figure skating, broomball, speed skating and ice hockey, as well as dedicated curling lanes – the first of its kind in Australia – and capacity for up to 3600 spectators.
It will also include an Olympic-standard indoor rock climbing facility.
Amenities will include change rooms, player benches, penalty boxes and judging platforms, as well as a retail/pro shop, skate rental facilities, café/kiosk and restaurant, office and administration space and concessions areas in the main ice rink.
Sport and Recreation Minister Yvette Berry said it would be the only private facility of its kind in Australia and would also receive the highest amount of government funding for an ice sports facility in Australia.
Ms Berry said there was already a strong and growing ice sports community in the ACT.
She said people were saying “build it and they will come” but “I think build it and they are already here”.
Asked about the location, Ms Berry said there was not much land of this size and type available for the facility across the city and the community had wanted it to be in the south.
“This is the piece of land that suited the needs of the facility,” she said.
Ms Berry said the value of the land would be identified through the direct sale process.
Any further support for the facility would be worked out in contract negotiations.
“We want to see the Canberra arena be a real community facility,” she said.
On the Phillip rink, Ms Berry said that under the current lease Geocon would be required to continue operating it, and she was due to meet with the company to clarify their intentions for the site.
But under the proposed Territory Plan which allows development of the site, Geocon would only need to provide a 25-metre public pool.
ACT Ice Sports Federation President Tony Prescott said the announcement was a monumental moment for the ACT ice sports community.
“We know this facility will be a ground-breaker for ACT ice sports but we also know this facility will be a national centre of excellence for ice sports in the future,” he said.
“We know we will get national championships and international events, and the opportunities that brings for young Canberra kids to join the sports and have pathways right through to the elite level is so exciting for us.”
Cruachan Director Stephen Campbell said government support was vital for the project because it would be a combined recreational and sporting facility.
He said a single sheet recreational facility would easily be viable but the sports component need government support.
“It’s no different to how governments invest in basketball courts, soccer fields and other sporting infrastructure,” Mr Campbell said.
He said the Canberra Arena would be the first ice sports facility in Australia to have bowl or stadium seating.
“No matter where you are in the stadium, you will have an uninterrupted view of the sport,” Mr Campbell said.
A development application is expected soon.