5 December 2022

Plans for indoor stadium on the site of the Civic Olympic Pool reignited

| Tim Gavel
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Imagining the new Civic stadium. Photo: GHDWoodhead.

Imagining the new Civic stadium. Photo: GHDWoodhead.

Just as it looked as though the proposed 30,000-seat indoor sporting stadium on the site of the Civic Olympic Pool was on the verge of being cremated, the concept has been resurrected.

A consortium of Canberra businesses, sporting organisations and the Convention Bureau have developed a 36-page proposal addressing the issue of ageing infrastructure in the ACT.

The document, which has been presented to the Prime Minister and the ACT Chief Minister as well as Canberra’s Members of Parliament and ACT MLAs, outlines a way forward to build a new Civic indoor stadium and a new convention centre, as well as a proposal for the AIS Arena.

The plan would see the development of a 30,000-seat stadium, for use by the Raiders, the Brumbies and soccer, as well as providing an international standard, state-of-the-art entertainment venue built on the footprint of the Civic Olympic Pool site.

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Issues such as the limitations of the footprint have been addressed with an inverted bowl strategy, while the problems associated with growing of natural grass in an indoor stadium could be overcome with the roof constructed of a product known as ethylene tetrafluoroethylene membrane.

This same product was used successfully on the roof of the Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, which allows for the growth of natural grass.

The new Convention Centre would be built alongside the Civic stadium as one option, effectively straddling Parkes Way, negating the need for any relocation of the road.

It would also enhance the ‘City to the Lake’ concept.

Artist's impression on the city entertainment precinct. Photo: GHDWoodhead.

An artist’s impression of the city entertainment precinct. Photo: GHDWoodhead.

The proposal, which includes a hotel, would see the creation of a City East Entertainment Precinct with facilities for large-scale events coupled with the ability to cut costs as the stadium and the convention centre would be administered by the one entity, and utilise complementary infrastructure.

A new convention centre is viewed as being as equally important as a new stadium with Canberra being bypassed in the lucrative multibillion-dollar convention market.

To fund the facility the option of a public-private partnership has been proposed whereby a private company designs, builds and maintains the infrastructure on behalf of the government through a long-term contract.

With an estimated cost of between $495m and $736m, innovative funding options such as public-private partnerships are required.

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To that end, a business syndicate has proposed that underutilised land on the AIS Campus site be returned to the ACT.

This includes Canberra Stadium and the AIS Arena.

The ACT would then be in a position to offer the land to the public-private partnership for development to offset some of the costs associated with building a new facility at the Civic Olympic Pool site.

The proposal would see, as one option, resources set aside to refurbish the AIS Arena to be redirected to the planned medium-sized indoor stadium, currently undergoing feasibility and business case assessment at the University of Canberra.

Artist's impression of the surrounds of new city stadium. Photo: GHDWoodhead.

An artist’s impression of the surrounds of the new city stadium. Photo: GHDWoodhead.

It’s obvious Canberra’s major sporting and convention facilities are in urgent need of a significant overhaul. There is an apparent desire from the business and sporting communities to meet that challenge and to assist the ACT Government in securing financing for such a project without unduly affecting its long-term bottom line.

Observers are quick to point to the chronic capital underfunding of Commonwealth per capita grants over the past decade as a catalyst for the Commonwealth’s support for this proposition.

With Chief Minister Andrew Barr signalling a preference for a redevelopment of Canberra Stadium on the existing Bruce site, it remains to be seen whether there is an appetite to embrace this latest proposal.

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Adult are back in charge on Capital Hill12:34 pm 16 Jan 23

Ha ha, The Raiders and Brumbies will never fill it like that image is pretending to do.

Raiders filled or almost Bruce a

Raiders filled or almost filled cold, windy and almost 50 year old Bruce stadium a few times pre COVID. I’m pretty confident they’d average 20k crowds in a Civic based new stadium.

David McMahon5:58 pm 09 Dec 22

It’s time we stopped preserving the old and move forward. With this proposal the rest of the country can start to take us seriously. To keep an old under used pool instead makes a a laughing stock.

Got to love the negative Nancy’s of Canberra, sure the proposal needs to be evaluated thoroughly but I’m pretty sure the Canberra some people desperately want to keep as is, is very different from the Canberra that was 50-60 years ago.

Same people that would have whinged about the light rail only to turn around 20 years from now and say the city needs a light rail system and we should’ve built one 20 years ago…

Tom Worthington5:43 pm 05 Dec 22

The proposed indoor sporting stadium is a very clever design. The inverted bowl shape (enthusiastically promoted by ROSSETTI architects of Detroit), would make the building much more useful for non sporting events, as well as fiting it on a small site. The fixed transparent roof would be cheaper to build, and more environmentally sustainable, than an opening one. The UK Eden project has a much larger ETFE roof, which has survived two decades. The plastic is milky white, not completely transparent, but that could be used at night as an enormous projection screen, to provide a truly immersive Augmented Reality experience. The artist’s rendering shows the entire building made of ETFE, but it could be partly covered in semi-transparent solar panels, and the plaza outside shaded with these, to generate power.

Revamping Bruce is in my humble opinion throwing good money after bad. CBR, as the national capital, needs two stadia that can firstly accommodate AFL/Cricket/Athletics and secondly for rugby/soccer. They need to be central, have good transport links, parking and access to pre- and post-game entertainment and accommodation.
CBR needs to look at the best and copy or improve on that. The Gabba precinct in Brisbane has gone a remarkable transformation and a similar layout would suit CBR city very well. Similarly, a scaled down version of Sydney’s Olympic Park or the Gold Coast sports precinct at Metricon Stadium would suit CBR quite well.
Interestingly on the same RIOTACT newsletter is an article on how Canberra is “global Destination.” Without a major sports and entertainment precinct it is hard to fathom how CBR can ever be such a destination. CBR has only an aging concrete monolith at Bruce miles away from any pre- and post-game entertainment or a substandard Manuka oval that has possibly the worst stadium services of any major venue in the country.
The investment would give the capital region a valuable intergenerational sports and entertainment venue that would complement our museums and other assets and indeed give us global destination status.

Benjamin David Gravett (Benny)4:16 pm 05 Dec 22

So many negative Nancy’s on here. You always have to spend money to make money. Think of the revenue it would bring to the capital with all the extra attractions with entertainment and sport. What about bring a community together instead of always trying to dividends it with issues. It’s in the heart of our city perfect location. The soul has been sucked out of Canberra someone needs so build one back into it and this is a perfect start. All the people that are against it don’t obviously get out much and are very selfish I feel. Bring it on we would definitely benefit from this great idea.

With the benefit of hindsight it would have been wonderful if the equivalent of the Sydney Opera house had been built on the edge of the lake and mirroring into the water-something outstanding architecturally -the lakeside would have been excellent spot.Pity we didn’t have an Eugene Goossens here!

Yes, it’s clear why business would suggest this. Those businesses involved would gain from access to prime land (eg AIS, Canberra stadium, Civic pool & surrounds) for development at no cost, development money, kudos & PR), but it’d be a net loss for the Canberra public. No doubt the businesses would expect ongoing income from this so the cost of use to the public would be high. It will get less use than a public swimming pool.

The ACT government may be keen as they can then say they delivered to the loud voices who want this even at a high cost to ratepayers for something that benefits businesses more than local citizens. They should focus on essentials like health, education, buses, roads, footpaths, trees and other local maintenance issues that are currently neglected.

Alex Smorhun11:55 am 05 Dec 22

Going in circles here. Canberra definitely doesn’t want a stadium in civic. Touchy subject, in fact it nearly cost the NSW government’s re-election after people strongly objected against there new stadium. In canberra it’s even worse as it will stay empty for 6 months per year and crowds just don’t turn up for league or union. The best option is still to upgrade existing, and spent taxpayers monies saved by this option on roads, cracked bike paths upgrade shopping centres and a million other things and then everyone will be happy.

Another day, another stadium plan.

fridgemagnet8:45 am 05 Dec 22

A stadium/convention centre on Civic Pool site is poorly reasoned. The site is too small and the benefits too few. Commit to re-development of Bruce Stadium and better utilise the land to the rear to increase the size of it. Re-build Civic Pool at the same time…

The Bruce site isn’t owned by the government and is poorly located as the main stadium to service the city.

Fantastic initiative. Bruce Stadium is outdated, the worst in Australia, and isolated. This is practical and makes use of land that is utilised by so little. Throw in a convention centre etc and you are on a winning idea. For those who say Civic cannot handle it, you may want to discuss this with local businesses etc and those who want to go out before/.after an event…. you are in the minority I dare say…….. bring it on!

30,000 people funnelled into Civic will make Civic unusable during big events.

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