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Manuka Oval, they like you just the way you are

By Charlotte Harper - 8 August 2016 24

Manuka Oval

Do you remember that scene in Bridget Jones’ Diary when Mark Darcy told Bridget he liked her just the way she was? Isn’t it possible, highly likely even, that Cricket Australia feels exactly the same way about Manuka Oval?

One of the strongest arguments for redeveloping the Oval precinct was that its sporting facilities need to be upgraded in order to attract world class sporting events.

But Cricket Australia announced in April that Test cricket was coming to Manuka, with Australia to play Sri Lanka here in 2018-19, despite there being no plan in place to upgrade facilities between now and then.

That announcement must provide some relief to those lamenting the demise of the GWS/Grocon plan to redevelop the precinct.

GWS’s continuing commitment to playing several matches a year here and the sell-out crowd at the Giants’ most recent home game at the ground must further reassure them, as will today’s announcement that the Prime Minister’s XI match will switch from being a traditional one-day match to the more popular Twenty20 format.

Anyone who has ever listened to either the ABC Radio or Nine Network’s television coverage of matches at Manuka knows that commentators, visiting fans and players alike regularly wax lyrical about the picturesque nature and village feel of the historic ground.

The challenge for any developer keen to reshape the Oval and its surrounds is retaining those highly regarded qualities while creating a sustainable revamped precinct.

It had become increasingly clear that residents of the Inner South, regular visitors to Manuka Oval and users of the neighbouring facilities did not believe GWS/Grocon’s Manuka Green proposal could meet that challenge.

The Government recognised this, eventually, with Chief Minister Andrew Barr announcing on Friday that it had rejected the unsolicited bid from GWS/Grocon in its current form.

With an election only weeks away, Barr and co had little choice but to shelve the plan, particularly given the endless trouble their handling of it has caused them since the day it was announced (Minister Meegan Fitzharris being present at a briefing on the proposal from her husband, who was then working for a firm lobbying the Government on behalf of GWS/Grocon, being just one example).

Mr Barr has finally taken on board the April recommendation of cabinet colleague Shane Rattenbury, the only sitting member of the Assembly who attended a rowdy meeting of more than 300 concerned citizens on the GWS/Grocon proposal that month, and committed to community consultation on a new master plan for Manuka Oval and surrounds ahead of a competitive process for the site’s redevelopment.

GWS and Grocon may yet be a part of that future competitive process, but the Canberra community will have had an opportunity to define boundaries for the project before they and other developers next enter the fray.

Mr Barr said on Friday that the Government would set up a community panel via an Expressions of Interest process to commence within six weeks, with the aim of ensuring the panel is demographically representative of the Territory’s population while including relevant sporting groups. It would have its first meeting by the end of this year, with a view to a Territory Plan Variation being initiated by late 2017. The masterplanning process would include parking and how the Oval could be better connected with Manuka, Kingston, Lake Burley Griffin and Telopea Park.

The election must be looking close in both senses of the phrase – this is the third major backdown by the Government in recent weeks, following on from the announcement that the Manuka Childcare Centre (MOCCA) will not be forced to move from its historic Flinders Street site, and that controversial liquor licensing changes to encourage earlier closing times had been dropped.

It remains to be seen how much damage the great Manuka Oval debate has caused Mr Barr and his team, both at the polls and in terms of business confidence, particularly in the unsolicited bids process.

Will corporate giants like Grocon and their ilk have been scared off by the mix of community ire and Government bungling?

Not if there is a buck to be made here in the future, one would imagine, though this may be of little consolation to Labor powerbrokers looking back on some of the Bridget Jones-style own goals that led them here.

Charlotte Harper lives in the Inner South and learnt to swim at Manuka Pool. She is also a former wicketkeeper (for her school’s first XI side) and a fan of both cricket and AFL (though the Swans, not the Giants).

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24 Responses to
Manuka Oval, they like you just the way you are
dungfungus 8:49 am 10 Aug 16

JC said :

Kent Street said :

… The AFL isn’t going to let that happen, just like the Roo’s never moved here. Western Sydney is a much more important market than Canberra.

Western Sydney Wanderers have comprehensively destroyed GWS’s plans for Western Sydney. The AFL subsidies for GWS end between 2015-18 (gee, right about now…), and GWS get more spectators here than Skoda Stadium. The AFL wants their teams to succeed.

cbjcurtin said :

How can a business named Greater Western Sydney relocate to Lesser Southern Canberra? We can’t afford them anyhow.

Easy. They’ll become the Canberra Giants. South Melbourne moved to Sydney, Fitzroy moved to Brisbane, Footscray moved to western Melbourne, North Melbourne play 4 games in Hobart as a precursor to a move across the Tasman, Hawthorn play in Launceston also (but now they’re strong, that contingency plan is losing them money)… moving happens.

And GWS were known in 2009 as a risky venture that may not work. Read the 2009 senate report: http://www.aph.gov.au/~/media/wopapub/senate/committee/rrat_ctte/completed_inquiries/2008_10/afl_tasmania/report/report_pdf.ashx

Did you mean “The Canberra Grants”?

A_Cog 11:03 pm 09 Aug 16

Kent Street said :

… The AFL isn’t going to let that happen, just like the Roo’s never moved here. Western Sydney is a much more important market than Canberra.

Western Sydney Wanderers have comprehensively destroyed GWS’s plans for Western Sydney. The AFL subsidies for GWS end between 2015-18 (gee, right about now…), and GWS get more spectators here than Skoda Stadium. The AFL wants their teams to succeed.

cbjcurtin said :

How can a business named Greater Western Sydney relocate to Lesser Southern Canberra? We can’t afford them anyhow.

Easy. They’ll become the Canberra Giants. South Melbourne moved to Sydney, Fitzroy moved to Brisbane, Footscray moved to western Melbourne, North Melbourne play 4 games in Hobart as a precursor to a move across the Tasman, Hawthorn play in Launceston also (but now they’re strong, that contingency plan is losing them money)… moving happens.

And GWS were known in 2009 as a risky venture that may not work. Read the 2009 senate report: http://www.aph.gov.au/~/media/wopapub/senate/committee/rrat_ctte/completed_inquiries/2008_10/afl_tasmania/report/report_pdf.ashx

dungfungus 6:29 pm 09 Aug 16

Andrew Zed said :

gooterz said :

… Manuka is a hopelessly outdated facility. Parking is terrible, gate access is terrible, public transport is terrible – and most of all – catering is absolutely woeful. To a certain extent you can understand why they always stuff up the food and drink – because the ground only hosts a major event once every few months…

They could easily fix that by allowing catering trailer businesses and food vans into the Oval. But they don’t.

miz said :

…I am aware that a lot of free tickets are circulated to keep the attendance numbers up too.

Not every game. The last game against Richmond on 30 July there weren’t any/many.

bringontheevidence said :

… Manuka certainly isnt a ‘great’ stadium, but its ‘good enough’ for what its used for – which is a handful of big events a year … Upgrading it is sort of like buying a expensive 4WD for the 5 times a year you drive to the coast. Its great then, but the other 350 days of the year its costing you a lot of money for no benefit

Upgrading Manuka Oval is a precursor to GWS leaving Sydney and relocating to Canberra permanently.

There were heaps of free tickets circulating in Albury – they aren’t just circulated in Canberra. Anyone know exactly how many because there is no way anyone from the government will ever tell us the truth.
How can a business named Greater Western Sydney relocate to Lesser Southern Canberra?
We can’t afford them anyhow.

JC 5:34 pm 09 Aug 16

Andrew Zed said :

Upgrading Manuka Oval is a precursor to GWS leaving Sydney and relocating to Canberra permanently.

The AFL isn’t going to let that happen, just like the Roo’s never moved here. Western Sydney is a much more important market than Canberra.

Rollersk8r 3:36 pm 09 Aug 16

wildturkeycanoe said :

gooterz said :

Furthermore, Manuka is shallow and open, so there’s very little noise or atmosphere.

But – having said that – I’m not wedded to redeveloping Manuka. I don’t think a high-rise type stadium is suited to an inner suburban area like Manuka. Nor would I want to see another stadium in the middle of nowhere like Bruce is. It seems like Manuka in its current form is the best we’ll get for AFL and cricket in Canberra, especially seeing how much has already been invested in the playing surface and lights etc.

What about the ACT Governments plans for a new stadium in Civic ?

I thought that was originally targeted at attracting Aussie Rules games but the plan was subsequently “downsized” to the extent that Aussie Rules could not be played on it ?

If so, I wonder if that generated the GROCON/GWS proposal to Redevelop Manuka Oval.

As far as I understand – the city stadium was always meant to be rectangular, i.e. Raiders, Brumbies and hopefully A-League soccer down the track. And I actually think it would be awesome – bring people into Civic – go straight from work to games!!

But too bad – all future city-to-the-lake money is going into the tram!!

Rollersk8r 3:31 pm 09 Aug 16

miz said :

gooterz said :

I’m a foundation member of the Giants, so have been going to Manuka at least 4 times a year since 2012; as well as watching matches at Etihad, MCG, SCG, Spotless and the Gabba. Manuka is a hopelessly outdated facility. Parking is terrible, gate access is terrible, public transport is terrible – and most of all – catering is absolutely woeful. To a certain extent you can understand why they always stuff up the food and drink – because the ground only hosts a major event once every few months. They never seem to learn any lessons or improve any processes from event to event… Furthermore, Manuka is shallow and open, so there’s very little noise or atmosphere.

But – having said that – I’m not wedded to redeveloping Manuka. I don’t think a high-rise type stadium is suited to an inner suburban area like Manuka. Nor would I want to see another stadium in the middle of nowhere like Bruce is. It seems like Manuka in its current form is the best we’ll get for AFL and cricket in Canberra, especially seeing how much has already been invested in the playing surface and lights etc.

The current price per Manuka game for GWS being a tad over $700K with 5 years to run on the contract, further expenditure of any kind at Manuka is totally unjustified.
I am aware that a lot of free tickets are circulated to keep the attendance numbers up too.

Of course there were free tickets in the beginning – but I wasn’t even able to claim my membership guest passes for the Richmond game.

Rollersk8r 3:29 pm 09 Aug 16

bringontheevidence said :

How is Bruce in the middle of nowhere?

Manuka certainly isnt a ‘great’ stadium, but its ‘good enough’ for what its used for – which is a handful of big events a year (how many events get over 10,000 people – maybe 6 or 7?). The rest of the time its a suburban oval used for local competitions. Upgrading it is sort of like buying a expensive 4WD for the 5 times a year you drive to the coast. Its great then, but the other 350 days of the year its costing you a lot of money for no benefit

Bruce isn’t convenient to anywhere; as in there’s nowhere within walking distance to meet up and drink or eat before or after a game. And I say that as someone who can see Bruce Stadium from my house. At least Manuka has some amenity to restaurants etc.

I don’t disagree that Manuka meets a minimum standard.

A_Cog 1:11 pm 09 Aug 16

gooterz said :

… Manuka is a hopelessly outdated facility. Parking is terrible, gate access is terrible, public transport is terrible – and most of all – catering is absolutely woeful. To a certain extent you can understand why they always stuff up the food and drink – because the ground only hosts a major event once every few months…

They could easily fix that by allowing catering trailer businesses and food vans into the Oval. But they don’t.

miz said :

…I am aware that a lot of free tickets are circulated to keep the attendance numbers up too.

Not every game. The last game against Richmond on 30 July there weren’t any/many.

bringontheevidence said :

… Manuka certainly isnt a ‘great’ stadium, but its ‘good enough’ for what its used for – which is a handful of big events a year … Upgrading it is sort of like buying a expensive 4WD for the 5 times a year you drive to the coast. Its great then, but the other 350 days of the year its costing you a lot of money for no benefit

Upgrading Manuka Oval is a precursor to GWS leaving Sydney and relocating to Canberra permanently.

dtc 12:26 pm 09 Aug 16

How is Bruce in the middle of nowhere?

Manuka certainly isnt a ‘great’ stadium, but its ‘good enough’ for what its used for – which is a handful of big events a year (how many events get over 10,000 people – maybe 6 or 7?). The rest of the time its a suburban oval used for local competitions. Upgrading it is sort of like buying a expensive 4WD for the 5 times a year you drive to the coast. Its great then, but the other 350 days of the year its costing you a lot of money for no benefit

dungfungus 10:24 am 09 Aug 16

gooterz said :

I’m a foundation member of the Giants, so have been going to Manuka at least 4 times a year since 2012; as well as watching matches at Etihad, MCG, SCG, Spotless and the Gabba. Manuka is a hopelessly outdated facility. Parking is terrible, gate access is terrible, public transport is terrible – and most of all – catering is absolutely woeful. To a certain extent you can understand why they always stuff up the food and drink – because the ground only hosts a major event once every few months. They never seem to learn any lessons or improve any processes from event to event… Furthermore, Manuka is shallow and open, so there’s very little noise or atmosphere.

But – having said that – I’m not wedded to redeveloping Manuka. I don’t think a high-rise type stadium is suited to an inner suburban area like Manuka. Nor would I want to see another stadium in the middle of nowhere like Bruce is. It seems like Manuka in its current form is the best we’ll get for AFL and cricket in Canberra, especially seeing how much has already been invested in the playing surface and lights etc.

The current price per Manuka game for GWS being a tad over $700K with 5 years to run on the contract, further expenditure of any kind at Manuka is totally unjustified.
I am aware that a lot of free tickets are circulated to keep the attendance numbers up too.

rommeldog56 6:57 am 09 Aug 16

gooterz said :

Furthermore, Manuka is shallow and open, so there’s very little noise or atmosphere.

But – having said that – I’m not wedded to redeveloping Manuka. I don’t think a high-rise type stadium is suited to an inner suburban area like Manuka. Nor would I want to see another stadium in the middle of nowhere like Bruce is. It seems like Manuka in its current form is the best we’ll get for AFL and cricket in Canberra, especially seeing how much has already been invested in the playing surface and lights etc.

What about the ACT Governments plans for a new stadium in Civic ? I thought that was originally targeted at attracting Aussie Rules games but the plan was subsequently “downsized” to the extent that Aussie Rules could not be played on it ?

If so, I wonder if that generated the GROCON/GWS proposal to Redevelop Manuka Oval.

Rollersk8r 10:16 pm 08 Aug 16

I’m a foundation member of the Giants, so have been going to Manuka at least 4 times a year since 2012; as well as watching matches at Etihad, MCG, SCG, Spotless and the Gabba. Manuka is a hopelessly outdated facility. Parking is terrible, gate access is terrible, public transport is terrible – and most of all – catering is absolutely woeful. To a certain extent you can understand why they always stuff up the food and drink – because the ground only hosts a major event once every few months. They never seem to learn any lessons or improve any processes from event to event… Furthermore, Manuka is shallow and open, so there’s very little noise or atmosphere.

But – having said that – I’m not wedded to redeveloping Manuka. I don’t think a high-rise type stadium is suited to an inner suburban area like Manuka. Nor would I want to see another stadium in the middle of nowhere like Bruce is. It seems like Manuka in its current form is the best we’ll get for AFL and cricket in Canberra, especially seeing how much has already been invested in the playing surface and lights etc.

No_Nose 5:14 pm 08 Aug 16

Blen_Carmichael said :

MarkE said :

Some commentators seem to think that opposition to development AROUND the oval (apartments, offices and hotel) means disapproval of upgrades INSIDE the oval. This is a MYTH.
This oval has previously been rated by AFL as ‘best fan experience’ – if it ain’t broke why stuff it up?

What delirious AFL fans were that? Manuka is a dump of an AFL ground compared to the better grounds interstate..

Gotta disagree with you there. The only ground I enjoy watching footy at more than Manuka is Adelaide Oval.

I really dislike the G, but of course keep going back just for the games. Etihad and Spotless are both much better experiences than the G but not as good as Adelaide or Manuka.

Keep Manuka the way it is!

mcs 4:20 pm 08 Aug 16

MarkE said :

Some commentators seem to think that opposition to development AROUND the oval (apartments, offices and hotel) means disapproval of upgrades INSIDE the oval. This is a MYTH.
This oval has previously been rated by AFL as ‘best fan experience’ – if it ain’t broke why stuff it up?

What delirious AFL fans were that? Manuka is a dump of an AFL ground compared to the better grounds interstate.

Of course its never going to match them, but some better facilities would be very much welcome in my opinion, not just for the benefit of the AFL going crowd.

TOF 3:44 pm 08 Aug 16

Some commentators seem to think that opposition to development AROUND the oval (apartments, offices and hotel) means disapproval of upgrades INSIDE the oval. This is a MYTH.
This oval has previously been rated by AFL as ‘best fan experience’ – if it ain’t broke why stuff it up?

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