4 January 2024

The focus for Canberra sport in 2024 should be on improving the city’s sports facilities

| Tim Gavel
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ACT sports grounds need to match the growth of the city

Despite the growth in Canberra’s population, sports facilities in the ACT are sadly lacking. Photo: File.

Vision of the UC Capitals playing Adelaide Lightning in a school gym in December should, hopefully, be a wake-up call to initiate action on Canberra’s depleted sports facilities.

The move to a school gym was necessitated by a power failure at the Capitals’ temporary home, the National Convention Centre, while the AIS Arena undergoes a seemingly endless renovation.

The temporary closure of the AIS Arena means that Canberra is without a mid-sized indoor arena. Photo: Tim Gavel.

AIS Arena is ‘temporarily’ closed …. define temporarily. Photo: Tim Gavel.

Of course, it wasn’t just any school gym, it was the Radford College facility, which is up there with the best in the school system in the ACT.

The mothballing of the AIS Arena since 2020 with concerns about fire safety has effectively stymied the growth of major indoor sport in the city for three years.

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This has resulted in an absence of Super Netball, NBL and volleyball.

There is continuing speculation about the University of Canberra’s aspirations to establish an indoor facility to cater for the Capitals and indoor sport in the future, but it is yet to get off the ground.

Aerial artist’s impression of Throsby’s Home of Football. Photo: ACT YourSay Conversations.

Also yet to fully take flight is the Home of Football at Throsby, which received a boost in July 2023 with the approval of the Estate Development Plan.

It remains to be seen how long it will be before the Home of Football hosts any football, though.

There is also the request from Hockey ACT for an upgrade to the Lyneham Hockey Centre playing surface if Canberra is to host international hockey.

Part of the crowd at the Lyneham Hockey Centre in October 2023 to watch the Canberra Chill. Photo: Canberra Chill Facebook.

Part of the crowd at the Lyneham Hockey Centre in October 2023 to watch the Canberra Chill. Photo: Canberra Chill Facebook.

McKellar Stadium, home to Canberra United, also needs an upgrade. Parking around the ground is also an issue.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Canberra’s sporting facilities.

At least 15 years ago, I campaigned about the lack of facilities planned for the ACT, given the growth in population and the lack of sporting facilities to correspond with that population growth.

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Town centres were being built seemingly without enough thought given to the sporting requirements of people moving into medium-density housing.

It has resulted in basketball and futsal competitions searching for facilities, often ending with teams playing in school halls and gyms.

It is an extraordinary situation in which we find ourselves, particularly when smaller centres, such as Wagga Wagga and Albury, boast, in some cases, superior facilities.

Mountain biking at Stromlo Forest Park. Photo: Stromlo Park Facebook.

Stromlo Forest Park is a world-class venue in the ACT. Photo: Stromlo Forest Park Facebook.

To give credit to the ACT Government, there has been progress for some sports in Canberra – the drawing board is definitely full and items are being ticked off: the ice sports facility will hopefully get off the ground this year, there are new tennis courts in Gungahlin, a track and field complex at Woden, the planned multi-purpose Philip sports ground, the proposed expansion of the Belconnen Basketball Stadium, the Molonglo Aquatics Facility, Mount Stromlo Forest Park, Manuka Oval, Football Park Philip, the baseball faculty at Narrabundah and the Netball Centre at Lyneham.

While there has been progress, we are playing catch-up after years of lack of foresight into the needs of a growing population.

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As a fairly new lawn bowler, it amazes me that, in a city like Canberra, we don’t have a single covered green. Look at Merimbulah, Moama and a host of clubs up and down the coast that have superior facilities to here. It would be a great investment by the ACT government, but there doesn’t seem to be any interest there at all.

Trams are the only thing on Barr’s mind .

He doesn’t care for local community requirements around fit for purpose facilities for sport , policing numbers , healthcare nor affordable housing. Paid parking at Stromlo isn’t a win, something nobody asked for and won’t be transparent

The government is also very arrogant when asked questions on all the degrading facilities and services. Another 25 years of this govt ….?

Andrew Barr costed a $350 million dollar Civic stadium around 2015. Parramatta built their excellent new $360 million dollar stadium starting around the same time.

Instead of the Civic stadium that Mr Barr took to multiple ACT Elections, he’s spending $700 million plus on less than 2km of light rail to Commonwealth Park at a cost benefit of just 40 cents in the dollar. I presume that benefit value has further reduced with a tripling in cost.

Evidence based infrastructure planning for Canberra seems to have become a political plaything not a decision based on proper business cases.

I’ve got nothing against sport but I think that fixing the health system is a higher priority.

Jerrabomberra has a fantastic new sports complex with football pitches, a hockey pitch, warm up pitches, storage and change rooms, canteen, grandstand / pavilion facilities already built.

A four court indoor facility catering for basketball, Futsal, netball and a competition standard aquatics, hydrotherapy and sports/rehab therapy pool is being built there as well.

It’s something Canberra could only dream of!

Not surprised at all. Did you also know that no state sporting organisation in the ACT has received any information on their categorisation for funding for 2024???? We were meant to be applying for grants based on final categorisation well before Christmas but nothing but radio silence. They paid a consultant thousands to redesign the funding model, didn’t get implemented for 2023, now it is 2024 and we still have no idea if we will get any money at all to help run our sport and keep kids and adults active. It is an absolute joke, this whole saga could be a season of utopia.

Macquariephil1:24 pm 04 Jan 24

If the ACT Government has a vision for Civic as a vital business and entertainment precinct, they would have rocks in their heads not to find a way to have a decent indoor stadium and rectangular football stadium adjacent to Civic. Take a leaf out of the Adelaide Oval story.

Gregg Heldon1:10 pm 04 Jan 24

Don’t give the Government any credit! They HATE sport.
This is exemplified by rezoning all the ovals and sporting facilities around the Mint and Hughes so that the tram may go past on the way to Woden. All that public asset will become GeoConVille quicker than you can say Howzat.

In the years BEFORE the AIS Arena was closed, how many games did the Canberra Capitals play there each year Tim?

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