31 March 2020

Learn to love the stadium at Bruce because it'll be here for a while

| Tim Gavel
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Canberra Stadium will remain the home of sport in Canberra into the future due to the impact of coronavirus. Photo: Supplied by Canberra Raiders.

The much-loved Canberra Stadium needs to be loved for a but longer. Photo: Canberra Raiders.

In this time of crisis, it is almost trite to be talking about sport with so many people suffering from the health impacts of COVID-19, not to mention the economic impacts of the pandemic.

But current circumstances will pass and it is worth considering life after the pandemic, once we have it under control.

I am starting to think every time the development a new stadium in Civic starts to gain traction it is hit with a new crisis that has the potential to significantly delay the project. Although, to be fair, it does diminish in significance when compared to COVID-19.

When it was first proposed and started to gather momentum, there was an expectation in some quarters that it would already be built by now.

Then came the Mr Fluffy crisis, which severely hit the ACT Government’s bottom line.

Then stage one of the light rail project emerged as the main priority.

The ACT economy then took a hit with the bushfire emergency and the smoke haze over summer as people stayed home rather than socialising, shopping or going to restaurants.

Mind you, the ACT Government remained optimistic. In February it launched a feasibility study into where the 25,000-seat stadium should be located, with Exhibition Park emerging as a possible site.

And now, of course, the latest intrusion into the process is the COVID-19 pandemic. It is already having a significant impact on the Canberra economy. This has the potential to set the project back by at least a decade, possibly longer.

The priority for the ACT Government at the moment and heading into the future won’t be on building a new sports stadium. There are many other more worthy areas to which government funds should be allocated such as health, and rightly so.

The Federal Government, with its focus very much on dealing with coronavirus, won’t be in a hurry to make a decision about the AIS precinct, which houses Canberra Stadium.

Another factor contributing to a delay in committing to a stadium will be the ability to attract overseas investors given the battering taken by the global financial market.

With the proposed stadium well down the pecking order, perhaps it is time to fall back in love with the existing GIO Stadium facility at Bruce because the new one won’t be built any time soon.

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