11 February 2020

Reignited stadium debate has more than a touch of deja vu

| Tim Gavel
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Brumbies playing the Rebels at Canberra Stadium

The Brumbies and the Rebels drew a small crowd to Canberra Stadium last weekend. Photo: Tim Gavel.

There’s more than a touch of déjà vu with the ACT Government revealing in its mid-year budget review that $200,000 has been allocated for a feasibility study into the location of the proposed new indoor sports stadium.

It seems as though we’ve been through this process before, with the Civic pool site deemed the preferred location for the new home of the Raiders and the Brumbies.

But just when you thought the issue had been settled, obstacles emerged.

The Commonwealth has delayed its decision on what will happen to the AIS site on which Canberra Stadium is positioned. It’s currently costing $350,000 a year to rent the stadium from the Commonwealth. Understandably, the ACT Government is reluctant to spend money on a rented facility nearing the end of its existence.

Funding, of course, became tight for the ACT with considerable budget expenditure allocated to Mr Fluffy and the light rail. And then came the caveat that Canberra would need to have an A-League team to make a new stadium viable.

Given the issues facing the A-League as a whole, I wouldn’t be holding my breath.

More recently, there have been concerns about Parkes Way and the positioning of a rectangular stadium on the reasonably small pool site. This was before Exhibition Park emerged as an option, as well as the possibility of building on the existing Canberra Stadium site at Bruce.

You can’t help feeling as though we are going around in circles with this whole process.

Exhibition Park entered consideration because light rail could transport fans to and from the stadium.

But light rail was also one of the reasons the Civic option was attractive. Civic is also close to restaurants and bars, so the economic benefits would extend beyond the sporting event itself.

Across the world, the trend is for sports stadiums to be located within a city precinct. An exception was the construction of the Olympic Stadium in Sydney, but a civic precinct is now being developed around the Olympic Stadium, rather than the other way around.

Both the Raiders and the Brumbies have made clear their preference for the Civic pool site.

But what about the fans? Will they be consulted in the process? It would seem obvious that people upon whose support the viability of the stadium will be crucial should be part of the process as well as those who use Civic pool.

I just hope that once the feasibility report is finalised that there is more certainty on a timeframe for construction.

Canberra’s sports fans deserve it.

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I didn’t miss the irony of suggesting ‘when the feasibility study’ is finalised, that the key outcome is certainty on a ‘timeframe for construction’. Surely a feasibility study should be about whether something is actually ‘feasible’ I would of though – I do not consider at all that the feasibility of a new stadium has actually been firmly established, nor whether it stacks up on a cost benefit basis.

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