17 November 2023

Sports groups join forces to shape pitch for AIS to stay in Canberra

| Claire Fenwicke
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AIS exterior shot

An independent review is considering the future location of the AIS for the Federal Government. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Key Canberra sporting organisations have joined with the ACT Government to form a joint pitch to convince the Commonwealth that the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) is “critical” to the Territory.

All agreed moving the AIS out of the capital would be a loss to all sports, outlining the significant contribution the facility made to local sporting communities and how proximity to elite athletes and support staff served as an inspiration to aspiring sports stars.

Sport and Recreation Minister Yvette Berry, who hosted the roundtable this week, said everyone outlined the “critical nature” the AIS played in the “sporting ecosystem”, not only locally but into the wider region, nationally and internationally.

“Our sporting organisations spoke about the sense of pride and prestige athletes and teams have when they come to train in the nation’s capital with the best of the best. This is not only important for the athletes but all those who support them, the coaches, the sports scientists and administrators,” she said.

“We also heard about the important role of the AIS in Australia’s soft diplomacy, where visiting teams and international delegations can engage with our nation’s sporting culture and create new connections.

“This could not happen in any other place in Australia.”

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They also considered the future vision for the site.

Basketball ACT CEO Nicole Bowles said there was a range of questions considered at the roundtable.

“How do we make the AIS a centrepiece of community and fandom? How does a new facility keep its high-performance facilities but will allow for people to come and have a range of experiences on the site? How does it become a sport and a health hub? How do we link the AIS through to UC, CIT?” she asked.

“It would be good to reinvigorate the storytelling. The average user wants to be inspired by our sportspeople.”

The wider health, sports and education precinct in Bruce was also discussed. The group agreed investing in the facility was the best course of action for the AIS, rather than moving it.

“We should be thinking about how we can integrate the AIS into the nation’s capital and all the things we have to offer,” ACT Property Council’s Shane Martin said.

“When visitors come, we want them to experience more than the training camp.”

Representatives from Rowing ACT, Netball ACT, Basketball ACT, Cricket ACT, Swimming ACT, Gymnastics ACT, AFL Canberra, Capital Athletics, AusCycling, Softball Australia, the Brumbies, the National Capital Education Tourism Project, ACT Property Council, UC Capitals, and ACT Handball Association attended the roundtable, as well as representatives for Alicia Payne MP and Senator David Pocock.

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The event was in preparation for the ACT Government’s submission to an independent review into the future location of the AIS.

The Federal Government announced the review of AIS infrastructure last month to help guide funding decisions in the lead-up to major sporting events.

The ACT Government will present a submission to the review in coming days. The report is expected to be handed to the Federal Government by the end of the year.

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Interesting that there were no representatives from Capital Football considering the amount of use the complex gets from football for both training and matches.

Perhaps because the FFA dissolved its Centre of Excellence (formerly the Australian Institute of Sport Football Program) in 2017?

Granted that, but AFL hasn’t had a presence there since around 2013 either and the Brumbies?

In any case, all attendees were local ACT sporting organisations and with football using the grass and synthetic fields there regularly, you would have thought Capital Football would have been invited.

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