On Sunday night, Sydney’s Olympic Park was a sea of green, an indication, if nothing else, that support for the Canberra Raiders is at an all-time high.
Estimates had the Raiders’ contingent in the crowd of 82,000 at 65 to 70 per cent compared to support for the Roosters.
The expectation is that crowds for Raiders home games next season will be higher in the wake of the team’s performance this year, as well as the greater profile of the players following the massive exposure in the build-up to the decider.
If ever there was momentum to secure funding from both the Commonwealth and private equity partners, as well as justifying ACT Government funds to help build a new indoor stadium in Civic, it should be now.
If you were looking to raise funding in China or Singapore for the stadium, this is the perfect storm.
Part of the internal decision-making could be whether it will be a government-funded and owned facility or part-government–part-privately funded and operated.
Over the past three weeks, the people of Canberra have demonstrated what this team means to the community and the role the Raiders play in our lives.
I concede part of the issue has been the Commonwealth’s decision-making process involving the future of the AIS precinct facilities, which includes Canberra Stadium. This is understandable as it effectively will be a decision about the role the AIS will play in Australian sport in the ensuing years.
If the land on which Canberra Stadium currently exists was essentially gifted to the ACT Government, funds could be raised through development on the site to assist in building the new stadium.
The ACT Government had placed a caveat on the construction of a new stadium, which was the requirement for Canberra to also have an A-League team to ensure there is use during the summer months outside the NRL and Super Rugby seasons.
If you are waiting for that to happen, it may never be built. Just ask those who have been campaigning for an A-League team in Canberra. Canberra’s participation in the W-League surely should factor into the equation.
The Raiders have shown that by connecting to the community, the community will support the team. It is why I believe there will be more support than ever before for the ACT Government to say yes, now is the time to bite the bullet and build the stadium.