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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.