4 March 2022

Tent replacement for AIS Arena off the table as Barr reignites push for Commonwealth action

| Max O'Driscoll
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Entrance to AIS Arena

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has reiterated his initial calls for the Federal Government to act on the AIS Arena closure. Photo: Tim Gavel.

Reports of a large tent replacing the AIS Arena have been thrown out after Chief Minister Andrew Barr confirmed the option was explored but deemed unfeasible.

The arena, which is Commonwealth property, was closed in June 2020 due to several fire and event safety issues.

The AIS Arena closure forced the ACT Government to consider several alternative options including temporary structures.

In the annual report hearing on Thursday morning (3 March), the Chief Minister confirmed the large tent was considered unfeasible and the government was no longer exploring it as an option.

READ ALSO We’re at crisis point: the ACT needs a sports facilities strategy

Mr Barr also reiterated what he believed was the “only path forward” for the 40-year-old venue, a view he has put to the Commonwealth on several occasions.

“If we were to acquire the asset, it would need to be part of a broader set of arrangements for that precinct,” he said.

“It would also need to include the stadium and all of the available land around it in order to sell that for redevelopment, to finance the redevelopment of the arena and the stadium.”

He believes the acquisition would first require a change in government.

READ ALSO If the UC Capitals win the WNBL title, it could be the greatest performance in the Club’s history

The UC Capitals is one stakeholder eager to solve the ACT’s stadium problem, even if it is only temporary. Currently, the UC Capitals are sitting comfortably in 4th position on the WNBL ladder, which will see them return to finals basketball yet again.

At this stage, they will do it without a home court to play on in the ACT. The lack of facilities could potentially force the Capitals to Woolongong for their home finals.

General manager of the Capitals Lucille Bailie said though they are focused on basketball and not building and managing stadiums, they need a home.

“We have no certain position on where that home should be or which venue it should be, other than it needs to be in Canberra to service the team. The team needs to be able to play finals at home and to accommodate our passionate supporters, members, sponsors and the local community that loves the Capitals,” Ms Bailie said.

READ ALSO Would increasing land supply solve the ACT’s housing woes?

“Right now, today’s absolute top of the list, top of the job sheet priority is securing a venue for finals.

“We need to see a medium to long-term solution, but today the issue is where are we going to play finals and we don’t have the answer.’

With a finals berth likely only one win away, Ms Bailie admitted the potential for a home final away from home is “uppermost on the players’ minds”.

“Kelsey Griffin, our captain, said that it’s quite defeating for the team to think [of how] they play, they train and everything they give this competition,” she said. “For the players to go through the season with the possibility of playing in finals away from their home town and their home crowd…”

“It does beg the question if this was a scenario with a male or other sporting code, would they be faced with the same circumstances?”

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What about a tent replacement for housing the Canberra City Council instead of their new building? Appropriate and makes sense to me. The Council is very quick to look after itself.

So since the arena was closed in 2020 what, apart from putting their hand out for charity, has the local government done? Surely 18 months is enough time to have done at least a costed feasibility study and a concept design for a new indoor arena.

Seems like Barr got caught with his pants down and is now just trying to shift the blame.

It seems all that Andrew Barr has done is whinge about the federal government and say that he will not buy the facility, why cannot lease it the same as he does with Gio outdoor stadium which was built in 1977? (Still owned by the federal government/Australian sports Commission) it’s older than the arena! GIO has had a significant amount of money allocated to it in the last ACT budget! why can he not lease it? Or Co lease agreement with the federal government or with the university of Canberra (caps). For 5 to 10 years and do all the feasibility studies that are needed to build a new stadium get all the appropriate approvals to build a new stadium as well as an actually financial plan to build a new stadium. the university of Canberra would benefit from this as they would learn how to run a facility (of the same size that they wish to build on the UC grounds) and prove that they can do so.

Why on earth would the ACT government want to lease the AIS arena. It is no longer fit for purpose. How does leasing it solve anything.

As for development work on a replacement, unless I am mistaken the plan for a new football stadium is actually for a multi purpose stadium which would also cater for events that would otherwise use the AIS arena.

Overall the option to redevelop Bruce and use the money to build a new multipurpose stadium is the most sensible option that kills many birds with one stone.

I’d like to sell your house to buy myself a better car as well but it’s not going to happen. The Commonwealth own the stadium and the land on which it sits. Why would they in effect gift it to the ACT so they can make a quid out of developing it?

Because the Commonwealth has effectively for years been trying to find a way to get rid of the ‘AIS’ problem children off its hands, in particular GIO and the Arena. Hence why the Arena in particular, but also GIO to some degree are in such a poor state of repair.

The Commonwealth would hand them over tomorrow I reckon if they had a palatable ‘get out’ narrative they could sell to the general public about effectively flogging off the AIS. Its only the absence of that, and perhaps an absence of any agenda on anything at the Commonwealth level that means it has not happened.

In terms of solving long term needs around a stadium/arena, it is probably by a fair distance the best solution compared to alternatives.

Could not agree more ACT need new indoor venues but there are at least five to six years off and how many millions will this cost the present estimates are at 450 million!!! it’ll be closer to 650 Million by the time you fit it out !!! open it back up once the vaccine centre has left. the one thing that everybody seems to keep missing is somebody within their organisation (Australian sports Commission) state that the facility is unsafe, It keeps getting stated that the venue needs $5 million of infrastructure to be able to reopen where is the true cost analysis of this where is the actual report what are they actually looking at it seems nobody actually knows there’s been talk about fire systems, seats, lights, yet it since it has officially been unusable the ACT health department has moved in and had has excess of 3000+ people at one stage going through the doors a day to get their vaccines!! how can it be safe for 3000+ to get the vaccines but not safe for 3000+ to watch a sporting event a concert or go to a dinner or watch limelight, wedding expo and the list goes on, it’s not just the sporting teams that are missing out it’s Canberra is a community as a whole, how much is this actually costing Canberra in revenue without having a major facility that can seat the numbers like the multi facility setups that the AIS arena is able to do.

You answered your own question. 3000 people a day is totally different from a fire safety perspective compared to 3000 people in there at once. Especially when in vaccine “mode” everyone is basically using the floor and not the stands which presumably is where the issue is.

ok do you under stand how a dinner works or a expo ? when have the stands been deemed unsafe? i may have missed that ????

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