28 June 2023

Plans for new 30,000 seat stadium in AIS precinct; combined entertainment, convention centre in city

| Ian Bushnell
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Canberra Stadium screen

A new Canberra Stadium will have more covered seating. Photo: ACT Government.

The ACT will have a new 30,000-seat rectangular stadium within a decade, preferably in the Australian Institute of Sport precinct in Bruce.

Under a Memorandum of Understanding signed yesterday (28 June), the Australian Sports Commission and the ACT will investigate three options:

  • A new build on a different site in the precinct that would enable the current stadium to operate while the new stadium is being built
  • Demolition of the existing stadium and the construction of a new stadium on the same site
  • Staged, significant upgrades to the existing stadium.

But if the AIS location proves not feasible, the fallback option will be Exhibition Park as part of its planned revitalisation.

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The announcement, part of the government’s Entertainment, Arts and Sports Infrastructure Update, also includes plans for a new co-located 7500-seat indoor entertainment and convention centre, probably on the former Australian Forum site adjacent to City Hill that has been earmarked for such a development.

The stadium announcement confirms what Chief Minister Andrew Barr has been saying for months, that any new stadium would not be built in the city where a combination of design, technical, space and traffic issues ruled it out as an option.

The 30,000-seat capacity will enhance the ability of the ACT to host international matches.

The update says the stadium would cost more than $500 million, but a final figure is unknown, and the ACT would be looking to the Federal Government to co-fund its construction.

A feasibility study will look at the approach, cost and timing of building a new stadium, including investigating other projects of a similar size and stadium types.

Given that one of the biggest complaints about Bruce Stadium is the weather, the government’s intention is for a facility with more covered seating.

The study is expected to be completed in the first half of next year.

AIS CEO Kieren Perkins, Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Sport and Recreation Minister Yvette Berry at the MOU signing. Photo: ACT Government.

Under the MOU, the stadium will be a key feature of a revitalised AIS precinct as Australia prepares to host the Olympics in Brisbane in 2032.

Australian Sports Commission CEO Kieren Perkins said the MOU was an important step and aligned with the ASC’s discussions with the Federal Government about reviving high-performance sports facilities at the AIS precinct.

“The AIS has a deep-seated value to the Canberra community and we look forward to engaging in discussions with the ACT Government to ensure it is a vibrant precinct available for sport, entertainment and community use,” he said.

The government says timeframes for the project will depend on which option is settled on but the update says five to 10 years at the latest.

But building a new stadium at Exhibition Park may take longer due to the likely need to vary the National Capital Plan.

It is not known at this early stage whether the ACT or the Commonwealth would own the stadium, given funding arrangements are still to be worked out.

The update says the combined entertainment and convention centre would cost up to $250 million and host a diverse range of touring concert artists, exhibitions, events, sporting events and performances.

“Think [Sydney’s] Horden Pavilion,” Mr Barr told yesterday’s Canberra Business Chamber Budget Lunch when flagging the announcement.

The National Convention Centre site is too small for a 7500-seat entertainment pavilion. Photo: Wikipedia.

Detailed planning and concept design are already underway, and staged construction is expected to begin by 2026-27.

The new indoor entertainment pavilion would be developed first, followed by the Convention Centre Precinct.

The current Convention Centre site on Constitution Avenue is considered too small for a 7500-seat auditorium and convention centre.

Mr Barr said that the preferred site would also complement the nearby city cultural precinct, including a new Canberra Theatre, to be developed in coming years, creating a modern entertainment hub for Canberra.

“Canberra has been missing out on many major touring artists because we lack an iconic live music venue such as the Hordern Pavilion in Sydney and Palais Theatre in Melbourne,” he said.

“It’s time for our city to have its own iconic live music venue in the city centre, and the government will start the detail planning and design for the project.”

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The business community has been calling for a new convention centre for years, saying Canberra was missing out on events due to a lack of proper facilities.

Independent Senator David Pocock made the pitch for such a combined facility a key part of his election campaign.

The ACT will also be seeking a Commonwealth contribution to the cost of this project.

Work is also proceeding in the redevelopment of EPIC, which includes refurbishing the Fitzroy Pavilion to enable it to host large-scale community and multicultural events, with construction expected to be completed in the next 12 to 18 months.

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I love elections years….roll on the promises of all things our government should be doing when they are in government, not when they are when they are trying to stay in government.

What is the point of a 30,000-seat new stadium when the old one is 25,000. The new one is still not big enough for any international events.

Manuka oval (for cricket/AFL) also needs urgent major works – mainly a new eastern grandstand and better overall facilities. Hope its in the pipeline.

What is the point of a 30,000 seat new stadium when the oll one is 25,000. The new one is still not big enough for international events.

Very disappointed with this outcome. As other commentators on this article have mentioned, the Bruce location is very poor – particularly for access. EPIC is not much better for people getting to the venue from Tuggeranong. This is yet another example of Andrew Barr’s contempt for people living in Canberra’s south. The Canberra community should have a modern stadium that is readily accessible from all points of this city. Time to kick ACT Labor and The Greens out and replace them with MLAs who will actually work to meet the needs of the entire community.

Macquariephil11:11 pm 29 Jun 23

Don’t you love going to Bruce for a match on a cold Canberra night? Of course there’s no safe public transport, so you have to drive, and park in the dark in a dirt/mud carpark. Then you get a cold dank stadium. Afterwards, the only thing is to fight the traffic to get out and get home.

In Adelaide, for example, you can go to the game by train, for free. It’s a short walk over the footbridge to the modern, comfortable Adelaide Oval. There’s plenty of venues for pre game food and drink, within a short walking distance. After the game, downtown entertainment awaits.

Maybe Canberra could have the imagination and fortitude to invest something similar near Civic. It might revitalise our nightlife. It might generate income to more than offset costs.

Sorry for the impudence. After all, this is Canberra, and we all love Bruce.

And I thought the new stadium was on the list somewhere below the dragway that people have been waiting decades for.

The detailed design and construction tender has been awarded to B.M.D Construction Pty Ltd. Detailed design is expected to start in the coming months and be complete in late 2023 with major works commencing soon after. The bridge and approaching roads are expected to be complete and open to traffic by the end of 2025.

Start date: early works expected to commence mid-2023

Completion date: the road approaches and bridge are expected to open to traffic in December 2025.

Linda Seaniger4:24 pm 29 Jun 23

Why are we building a sports stadium when we are still waiting for a Bridge to replace Coppins Crossing Weir which must be 50 years old? The weir replacement is vital infrastructure and its been talked about for the last 10 years and still no physical signs of construction happening. What is the expected completion date of the stadium?

Google is your friend…

The detailed design and construction tender has been awarded to B.M.D Construction Pty Ltd. Detailed design is expected to start in the coming months and be complete in late 2023 with major works commencing soon after. The bridge and approaching roads are expected to be complete and open to traffic by the end of 2025.

Start date: early works expected to commence mid-2023

Completion date: the road approaches and bridge are expected to open to traffic in December 2025.

What only 1 stadium? Surely we need 2?
Never mind the debt.. feel the roar of the crowd and the exhilaration as the wonderful “legend” puts the ball over the line. YUP 2 stadiums please..

Michelle Fisher4:00 pm 29 Jun 23

I live on the southside and would prefer something more central however I do travel to Sydney for events and the precinct around Homebush Stadium does create a better atmosphere these days. If I could access it through light rail that would be better – that is also part of the trip to Sydney for concerts. It adds to the atmosphere/excitement.

The problem being that the trains in Sydney through to Homebush are at least relatively quick.

Even if light rail existed from the south to the Bruce precinct it would take well over an hour to get there making it unusable, considering you could drive there far quicker.

Bruce is a woeful location for a stadium.

Anthony Bryant2:10 pm 29 Jun 23

Bruce is a horrible place to put a new stadium. Access is terrible and nowhere in walking distance to go out after games. Get with the times and build a new one where the trams/buses can take you and you are able to kick on to bars and restaurants after the games.

Margaret Freemantle4:29 pm 29 Jun 23

Couldn’t agree more. The push for Bruce just shows Barr’s disdain for sport. He is a dictator.

Can’t wait for the video, they are comedy gold, remember “City to the Lake fly-through” from 2013.

So we can look forward to massive rates increases and government debt that will take generations to repay for their latest pet projects? Just another day in Canberra.

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