There is no doubt that some of Canberra’s public places are not ageing gracefully.
The complaints are piling up about some of the city’s frequently used facilities and the precincts in which they are situated as being not just dated but uninviting, uncomfortable and unsafe.
That is driving the push for a new stadium in the city for rugby union and league fans tired of the bleak bleachers of Bruce.
But the complaints are not limited to that piece of infrastructure.
Last week I was fortunate to take in The Girl From The North Country at the Canberra Theatre Centre. While the show was world-class, the theatre and surrounds did not live up to the quality on stage.
There is little sense of arrival walking to the CTC through laneways from car parks or the little-used Civic Square, and the foyer and bar have no sense of occasion to them.
The CTC is disconnected from the rest of the city, and the new development of Constitution Place only adds to the contrast and reinforces its inadequacy.
Even the city’s main classical music venue, Llewellyn Hall at the ANU, suffers from that same lack of a sense of arrival, and in both venues, patrons practise the Canberra wave of having to stand to let others pass along the row.
The convention centre has been a bugbear for as long as I’ve been in Canberra (and that’s a fair stint these days), and business has constantly been at government to build a new one to deliver what is hoped would be a lucrative stream of conferences to the national capital, even if most people somehow prefer the Gold Coast to the ACT.
The government set up an agency, the City Renewal Authority, to guide the development of Civic, including its streets, laneways and open spaces, not just buildings, but there is still much to do to create any sort of coherent and unified cityscape fit for its citizens.
To the north, Exhibition Park has hardly changed in decades, despite regular use as a festival and show venue. The government is finally preparing to revamp the site to transform it into a genuine entertainment precinct.
Then there are the older Town Centres where apartment development is booming, but public facilities are failing to keep up with the thousands of new residents.
The point of all this is that there is a long list of projects that need attention but limited funds to allocate to the tasks, and the small Territory government has had to make choices about what to give priority to – things such as health, education, roads and public transport.
So while the idea of a new state-of-the-art covered stadium centrally located in the city is appealing, it has a lot of rivals competing for government attention.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr has copped a lot of flack for apparently reneging on a promise to build a stadium, but as he again said this week for the umpteenth time when questioned in Estimates, the case does not stack up.
The more the government explored the Civic pool option the more complex and costly the project became, he said, elaborating on the challenges of moving Parkes Way to fit a stadium of suitable size.
In any case, the Territory never could and never will be able to go it alone on a piece of infrastructure of that size, which as Mr Barr pointed out, would be unused for much of the year, even if you threw in a few concerts.
The ‘build it and they would come’ crowd do not have to balance all the interests and needs of Canberrans.
Mr Barr has many times stated the government’s priorities in the city, and the next cab off the rank will be the Cultural Precinct, where the Canberra Theatre Centre is in constant use and, as stated above, in urgent need of renewal.
At least the cost can be offset by land sales and some private investment.
If a city stadium is a game changer then let the federal government and/or private sector, including the NRL and Rugby Australia, whose clubs will be the main beneficiaries, deliver it (and I will be first through the gates).
Mr Barr is hopeful that the AIS, including a repaired Arena and upgraded Canberra Stadium, offers opportunities for a housing, sporting and entertainment precinct if a deal can be negotiated with the Albanese Government.
And there is always the option for EPIC, which is not far from the city and on the light rail line, to host a stadium.
Independent Senator David Pocock says he will keep lobbying for his idea of a joint stadium and convention centre, and at least he is in the right arena to do that.
But it still comes back to having a credible site to build such a complex.
It may have been disappointing for some to hear Mr Barr’s answers from Liberal inquisitors who in government would face the same choices and will never commit to forking out the hundreds of millions of dollars required for such a project.
But to suggest as some have that this week Mr Barr finally killed off the stadium is ridiculous.
He has been telling us for months, if only people would listen.