19 April 2016

Tired Telstra Tower has sky high possibilities

| Kim Fischer
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telstra tower

The Telstra Tower is one of our most iconic Canberra landmarks. It is something tourists look for when they are lost, and a great relief for Canberrans to see when travelling on the Barton Highway after a seven-hour (or longer) drive from Melbourne.

The Telstra Tower opened on 15 May 1980 and there is something stylishly 1980s about it.

Many long-term locals will remember the controversy caused by this symbol of Canberra. When it was first proposed, it was the cause of bitter disputes and protests culminating in a High Court case in 1975. The protests about Telstra Tower have entered into ACT folklore. For example, in the ACT Legislative Assembly in 1991, we heard this:

Craig DUBY (No Self Government Party/Independents): … last week when I was attending a function at the Telecom Tower [Chief Minister Rosemary Follett and NT Member for Lingiari Warren Snowdon] confessed while they were at the function that they had led the protests back in the early days of trying to stop the bulldozers from being involved in the construction of the Telecom tower on Black Mountain. At the time many people felt that the Black Mountain Tower was an abomination. Some people still do, I am sure …

The then Chief Minister explained that her view of the tower had changed a great deal over the years as part of justification to build the Canberra Casino:

Rosemary FOLLETT (Australian Labor Party): I was part of the protest against the Telecom tower. I must admit that I still do not like the look of it and I still think it is too big, but there is no doubt that it is an enormous attraction for tourists. It offers a facility that our city can be proud of and it is obviously extremely popular. So, it serves a useful purpose. People who oppose the casino because it represents change and something new in Canberra ought to remember that history and should not be frightened by the prospect of having a small and appropriate casino in the location proposed by this project.

Of course, when Telstra was fully privatised in 2006, the tower ceased to be a government-owned asset. I can only imagine Telstra’s managers trying to figure out what to do with a revolving restaurant!

No doubt this is why management of the tower is currently outsourced to a local real estate company. But despite the Alto revolving restaurant closing in 2013, the tower still officially attracts 430,000 visitors a year. And it opened its executive briefing centre in 2014 for business room hire, which does demonstrate some creativity in thought.

Despite clocking up its 35th anniversary, just last year Mick Gentleman told us that Telstra Tower is a “cool” place to our youth:

Mick GENTLEMAN (Australian Labor Party): … children and young people have told us that … Canberra has lots of cool things like Lake Burley Griffin, Telstra Tower, and Questacon.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr is on record as wanting Canberra to be the “coolest little capital city”. And while the tower might have seen better days, it is iconic and will continue to attract tourists. As one of the first experiences that many tourists have of Canberra, let’s use some creativity and investment to make it unforgettable.

Here are some examples of what other significant towers have done to attract tourists:

  • Sydney Tower Eye includes a 4D Cinema movie
  • Roppongi Hills Mori Tower in Tokyo has a sky aquarium
  • Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas has SkyJump and three other thrill rides

There are many other possibilities. Would you visit an art gallery in the tower? Go to live theatre performances? Or maybe we should relocate the Casino to the tower?

What are your thoughts?

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Telstra Tower is right next to the Botanical Gardens where Pollen Cafe is doing a roaring trade. It would seem that a Pollen Cafe Telstra Tower could also be successful, especially if it retained a Botanical Gardens theme. For example, showcasing rare plants and plants used by our first nations people. There could even be a funicular railway that started at the gardens to go up the mountain, with a relaxing walk down. Just a perfect way to round off a visit to the gardens.

You all get your TV and FM from it, do NONE of you know that?

Even if yours comes from a repeater on Mt Taylor or Tuggeranong Hill it got there from Black Mtn tower.

TV and FM reception require uninterrupted line-of-sight paths to work properly.

oh_ said :

+1 for cable car from city/new acton or botanic gardens, better restaurant/s, spruce up and indoor/outdoor observation, sky walk. Bit of life/action/reason to go (maybe something creative, artsy, etc). It really is a focal point and tourist attraction. I kinda like the revolving restaurant idea but apparently its v expensive to run. Some kind of hotel/conference centre maybe with a heated outdoor pool a la Singapore Marina Bay Sands, or a natural spa/onsen…or all the above

It’s great to start the day with some good humour.

+1 for cable car from city/new acton or botanic gardens, better restaurant/s, spruce up and indoor/outdoor observation, sky walk. Bit of life/action/reason to go (maybe something creative, artsy, etc). It really is a focal point and tourist attraction. I kinda like the revolving restaurant idea but apparently its v expensive to run. Some kind of hotel/conference centre maybe with a heated outdoor pool a la Singapore Marina Bay Sands, or a natural spa/onsen…or all the above

switch said :

dungfungus said :

The hipster inspired pop-up container village at Acton on Port Botany was designed to be relocated anywhere in the Territory so why not move it to the top of Black Mountain?
Out of sight = out of mind.

Everyone would see it at the top of Black Mountain. Unless you are thinking of that bloke who so hated the Eiffel Tower he always ate there, so he couldn’t see it. Is this why you want the restaurant reopened?

It would be seen a lot less on top of Black Mountain.
I only go there when friends from out of town want the grand tour. These days, no one seems to be excited by the place. I doubt whether many Canberrans visit the site regularly.

dungfungus said :

The hipster inspired pop-up container village at Acton on Port Botany was designed to be relocated anywhere in the Territory so why not move it to the top of Black Mountain?
Out of sight = out of mind.

Everyone would see it at the top of Black Mountain. Unless you are thinking of that bloke who so hated the Eiffel Tower he always ate there, so he couldn’t see it. Is this why you want the restaurant reopened?

countach said :

Apsara said :

dlenihan said :

I wish the restaurant would reopen. Seems like the perfect venue. The restaurant restraints (Bistro/Al La Carte on top of the Sydney Tower always seems busy (and over priced) Lennon’s in Brisbane was also really busy, people love a view when they eat.

I know it closed down in 2013, but with the right food and pricing, I fail to see how it could fail.

A real shame in my opinion.

Absolutely… a lovely restaurant and a much better informal cafe is needed. We go regularly (I love to drink tea in a quiet location with a nice view) and it so needs modernisation and improvement.

Apsara said :

dlenihan said :

I wish the restaurant would reopen. Seems like the perfect venue. The restaurant restraints (Bistro/Al La Carte on top of the Sydney Tower always seems busy (and over priced) Lennon’s in Brisbane was also really busy, people love a view when they eat.

I know it closed down in 2013, but with the right food and pricing, I fail to see how it could fail.

A real shame in my opinion.

Absolutely… a lovely restaurant and a much better informal cafe is needed. We go regularly (I love to drink tea in a quiet location with a nice view) and it so needs modernisation and improvement.

Not just the restaurant, there is a space for a 2nd cafe way up on the top level that closed long ago. Presumably not enough patronage for a 2nd cafe. Maybe if they removed the entry fee it would encourage more people to just turn up. They can’t be making big money from the entry fee anyway.

Hey, the tower is a bit 70s, but it is what it is. Not that much you can do about it.

The hipster inspired pop-up container village at Acton on Port Botany was designed to be relocated anywhere in the Territory so why not move it to the top of Black Mountain?
Out of sight = out of mind.

Apsara said :

dlenihan said :

I wish the restaurant would reopen. Seems like the perfect venue. The restaurant restraints (Bistro/Al La Carte on top of the Sydney Tower always seems busy (and over priced) Lennon’s in Brisbane was also really busy, people love a view when they eat.

I know it closed down in 2013, but with the right food and pricing, I fail to see how it could fail.

A real shame in my opinion.

Absolutely… a lovely restaurant and a much better informal cafe is needed. We go regularly (I love to drink tea in a quiet location with a nice view) and it so needs modernisation and improvement.

Apsara said :

dlenihan said :

I wish the restaurant would reopen. Seems like the perfect venue. The restaurant restraints (Bistro/Al La Carte on top of the Sydney Tower always seems busy (and over priced) Lennon’s in Brisbane was also really busy, people love a view when they eat.

I know it closed down in 2013, but with the right food and pricing, I fail to see how it could fail.

A real shame in my opinion.

Absolutely… a lovely restaurant and a much better informal cafe is needed. We go regularly (I love to drink tea in a quiet location with a nice view) and it so needs modernisation and improvement.

Not just the restaurant, there is a space for a 2nd cafe way up on the top level that closed long ago. Presumably not enough patronage for a 2nd cafe. Maybe if they removed the entry fee it would encourage more people to just turn up. They can’t be making big money from the entry fee anyway.

Hey, the tower is a bit 70s, but it is what it is. Not that much you can do about it.

dungfungus said :

joingler said :

We could build the worlds largest water slide going down from the top of the tower to the base of the mountain. Add in a toboggan as well.

I am not entirely joking……

And all participants would have to go head first.

Absolutely. Unless a second was built for the little kiddies.

If built right, it could be a gradual descent all the way into Civic Pool.

That’d give a much needed new lease of life to both Civic Pool and Telstra Tower. Kill two birds with one stone. Or if the lake ever gets cleaned up, it could go straight into that….

joingler said :

We could build the worlds largest water slide going down from the top of the tower to the base of the mountain. Add in a toboggan as well.

I am not entirely joking……

And all participants would have to go head first.

VYBerlinaV8_is_back8:42 am 16 Jun 15

joingler said :

We could build the worlds largest water slide going down from the top of the tower to the base of the mountain. Add in a toboggan as well.

I am not entirely joking……

That is beyond awesome – people would come from all over the world to ride a waterslide like that!

rubaiyat said :

Holden Caulfield said :

Dame Canberra said :

…I’d like to think there’s potential to make the tower an attraction for locals too. I’d love to go up there for a really good coffee and/or breakfast on a weekend and admire the view…

I like this idea. Although they’d need to get weekday traffic too you’d assume.

The Arboretum does this reasonably well at the moment, but is that because it’s new or because it has a cool playground which attracts families?

No, because the Arboretum has the flat out best views of Canberra by far. I take all our visitors there and they love it.

The same views were there before it became the “arboretum” and it was better without the bling.

How about an Annual Peak to Peak marathon from Mt Ainslie to Black Mountain?

We could build the worlds largest water slide going down from the top of the tower to the base of the mountain. Add in a toboggan as well.

I am not entirely joking……

Light her up, like they do with the Eiffel Tower in Paris, maybe with a spectacular glittering display on a nightly basis or special occassions, public holidays or big events in Canberra.

I agree a decent cafe would be great. Possibly even one on the ground floor area next to the tower, semi outside and indoors. We were up their on the weekend a noticed a lot of cyclists doing hill climbs, right there is a portion of your market. Do a hill climb, reward yourself with a cup of joe.

To make a cafe work upstairs with repeat customers, you’d have to do away with the entry fee or make it more modest. We paid $7 per adult, kids under 4 were free to get in.

Someone made the suggestion to glass in the outdoor observation deck, that would work well. We went outside, did a lap and ran back inside, the cold wind was quite bad.

Walking trails and maybe a few decent mountain biking trails.

dlenihan said :

I wish the restaurant would reopen. Seems like the perfect venue. The restaurant restraints (Bistro/Al La Carte on top of the Sydney Tower always seems busy (and over priced) Lennon’s in Brisbane was also really busy, people love a view when they eat.

I know it closed down in 2013, but with the right food and pricing, I fail to see how it could fail.

A real shame in my opinion.

Absolutely… a lovely restaurant and a much better informal cafe is needed. We go regularly (I love to drink tea in a quiet location with a nice view) and it so needs modernisation and improvement.

BenjaminRose19915:52 pm 15 Jun 15

The whole tower’s public facilities need to redone inside and out including the paved area up from the parking areas. A “old parliament house” white paint job would make it look fantastic or just de-stain the concrete facade – either one.

In the meantime getting a restaurant up there should be first priority, a known-name cafe, couple ATMs, and EFTPOS payment for entry.

Questacon should build attractions and displays for the lower “museum” level underneath the tower in addition to new displays about the Tower and its function. Unlike the majority of displays and attractions at Questacon – make them intended for visitors over the age of fifteen and are somewhat technically minded. Questacon displays focusing on radio, television, and electricity would be a perfect fit for the Tower.

Ezy said :

On another note – There has been a bit of work of late to a walking trail to the top of Black Mountain from the hard to find carpark on Frith Road. They have recently had the Summit Trail sealed which is good for grip. It takes you to the Forest Trail which takes you in a loop around the mountain and is a great walk.

Sounds good.

Just had a look over the area with Google Maps (satellite view).

What is that cluster of buildings and sheds half way up? There is no identification on the maps.

VYBerlinaV8_is_back3:57 pm 15 Jun 15

Solidarity said :

If it’s owned by Telstra then wouldn’t Telstra need to invest money in it to make it better?

They have a moral obligation to turn up the vibrancy.

John Moulis said :

Holden Caulfield said :

Centrepoint Tower in Sydney (no modern-day attempts to change its name will wash with me) is a tacky tourist trap. The 4D movie thing is a waste of time and at $26.50 to visit you’d hope there was a half decent cafe so you could at least sit down for a bit to enjoy the view. Sadly not. There’s nothing from there that Telstra Tower should try and emulate.

Although, the Sky Walk thing might be okay, but seeing as you can already walk outside at the Telstra Tower it would be a tough gig to charge people more to dress up in daggy jump suits and play with chains.

Actually, there is already the potential for a Sky Walk at the Tower. Many people might not know that near the top of the Tower immediately below the transmission mast there is a rarely used observation deck with a railing. This is known as the work platform and is used by maintenance technicians. The view is spectacular and you can see as far as Lake George. Perhaps this can be opened to the public, and it could rival Sydney’s Sky Walk as a tourist attraction.

Good idea but there could be EMR problems that close to the transmission arrays.
Would need hard hats & hi-vis vests for a start.
Mark McCabe would have to check it out.

If it’s owned by Telstra then wouldn’t Telstra need to invest money in it to make it better?

Tymefor said :

Yeah. Considering how popular the walk up to Mt. Ainslie is. Both the Botanical Gardens and the tower are missing out by not having something exciting that connects the two. Developing a “garden” themed walking trail, like Mt Ainslie, from the Bot gardens carpark would be great. The option of stopping for a drink and a bite of food at either the top or bottom is appealing aswell.

Also a lot of fitness nuts would love to turn the tower’s internal stair into a crazy timed dash to the top. Could become Canberra’s version of the Melbourne stairs by the Yarra ( cant rem the name I think its near the uni.)

They do have an annual race up the stairs. https://www.runningcalendar.com.au/event/camp-quality-verticool-challenge/

On another note – There has been a bit of work of late to a walking trail to the top of Black Mountain from the hard to find carpark on Frith Road. They have recently had the Summit Trail sealed which is good for grip. It takes you to the Forest Trail which takes you in a loop around the mountain and is a great walk.

You could almost turn this into a competitive timed run similar to what Vancouver has https://grousemountain.com/grousegrind

VYBerlinaV8_is_back2:59 pm 15 Jun 15

John Moulis said :

Holden Caulfield said :

Centrepoint Tower in Sydney (no modern-day attempts to change its name will wash with me) is a tacky tourist trap. The 4D movie thing is a waste of time and at $26.50 to visit you’d hope there was a half decent cafe so you could at least sit down for a bit to enjoy the view. Sadly not. There’s nothing from there that Telstra Tower should try and emulate.

Although, the Sky Walk thing might be okay, but seeing as you can already walk outside at the Telstra Tower it would be a tough gig to charge people more to dress up in daggy jump suits and play with chains.

Actually, there is already the potential for a Sky Walk at the Tower. Many people might not know that near the top of the Tower immediately below the transmission mast there is a rarely used observation deck with a railing. This is known as the work platform and is used by maintenance technicians. The view is spectacular and you can see as far as Lake George. Perhaps this can be opened to the public, and it could rival Sydney’s Sky Walk as a tourist attraction.

Cool – top idea!

Holden Caulfield said :

Centrepoint Tower in Sydney (no modern-day attempts to change its name will wash with me) is a tacky tourist trap. The 4D movie thing is a waste of time and at $26.50 to visit you’d hope there was a half decent cafe so you could at least sit down for a bit to enjoy the view. Sadly not. There’s nothing from there that Telstra Tower should try and emulate.

Although, the Sky Walk thing might be okay, but seeing as you can already walk outside at the Telstra Tower it would be a tough gig to charge people more to dress up in daggy jump suits and play with chains.

Actually, there is already the potential for a Sky Walk at the Tower. Many people might not know that near the top of the Tower immediately below the transmission mast there is a rarely used observation deck with a railing. This is known as the work platform and is used by maintenance technicians. The view is spectacular and you can see as far as Lake George. Perhaps this can be opened to the public, and it could rival Sydney’s Sky Walk as a tourist attraction.

GardeningGirl1:48 pm 15 Jun 15

First and foremost it needs a good clean. A decent cafe would be good. I like the museum of technology idea (does anyone remember the old display downstairs?). And why not a zipline or something! I don’t think it needs complete gimmickry but some sort of interesting fun connection with the Botanic Garden and/or city makes sense.

Yeah. Considering how popular the walk up to Mt. Ainslie is. Both the Botanical Gardens and the tower are missing out by not having something exciting that connects the two. Developing a “garden” themed walking trail, like Mt Ainslie, from the Bot gardens carpark would be great. The option of stopping for a drink and a bite of food at either the top or bottom is appealing aswell.

Also a lot of fitness nuts would love to turn the tower’s internal stair into a crazy timed dash to the top. Could become Canberra’s version of the Melbourne stairs by the Yarra ( cant rem the name I think its near the uni.)

last time I went I did think a good spruce up would be worth it – the display on the ground and sub-ground floor doesn’t appear to have changed from when I was a much younger visitor to the centre. in its day the technology display was somewhat interesting.

the restaurant was fabulous and having that view as you went around was a bonus – it would be nice to get something like that established again.

Yes John and Acton – it is a lighthouse for all the sky ships we have visiting the capital every year!! 😉

“Craig Duby”, now there’s a name from the past! Wonder what ever happened to him. Dennis Stevenson anyone ?

Funky1 said :

Tymefor said :

Zip Line terminating in the botanical gardens!!!

Everything is better with a Zip Line

I was thinking Cable Car. Start it at the ANU somewhere or the CSIRO and have it go up the side of the mountain. I’m sure that winding road to the top deters some visitors from going up there.

The winding road is not the problem, it is the dull destination.

Tymefor said :

Zip Line terminating in the botanical gardens!!!

Everything is better with a Zip Line

Amen to that! 😀

Tymefor said :

Zip Line terminating in the botanical gardens!!!

Everything is better with a Zip Line

I was thinking Cable Car. Start it at the ANU somewhere or the CSIRO and have it go up the side of the mountain. I’m sure that winding road to the top deters some visitors from going up there.

Zip Line terminating in the botanical gardens!!!

Everything is better with a Zip Line

VYBerlinaV8_is_back11:48 am 15 Jun 15

I’d like the see the lower open air viewing gallery glassed in and cleaned up. It’s an amazing view, but often freezing cold and windy as hell.

I don’t think it needs gimmicks to be good, people just need a reason to attend. Charging admission is ok, but should be a lot cheaper. Having a restaurant up there again would be good too, but it shouldn’t be super-expensive.

Holden Caulfield said :

Dame Canberra said :

…I’d like to think there’s potential to make the tower an attraction for locals too. I’d love to go up there for a really good coffee and/or breakfast on a weekend and admire the view…

I like this idea. Although they’d need to get weekday traffic too you’d assume.

The Arboretum does this reasonably well at the moment, but is that because it’s new or because it has a cool playground which attracts families?

No, because the Arboretum has the flat out best views of Canberra by far. I take all our visitors there and they love it.

justin heywood said :

Good point. A huge icon and an amazing building in the city’s centre, virtually unused.

Other towns have ‘big’ things. Big bananas, big pineapple, big sheep etc. As the nation’s capitol, we could go with ‘big white elephant’.

Seriously though, I think that a museum of technology would be an appropriate use. The entire building is an example of changing technology, the CSIRO and ANU are nearby, and such a place would be another attractive stopover for the bus loads of school children who visit us from all over the country.

“Big White Elephant” is already reserved for the light rail.
Telstra tower could be called “The Big Syringe” (that is what I heard kids on an interstate school-tour refer to it as).

Dame Canberra11:09 am 15 Jun 15

Holden Caulfield said :

Dame Canberra said :

…I’d like to think there’s potential to make the tower an attraction for locals too. I’d love to go up there for a really good coffee and/or breakfast on a weekend and admire the view…

I like this idea. Although they’d need to get weekday traffic too you’d assume.

The Arboretum does this reasonably well at the moment, but is that because it’s new or because it has a cool playground which attracts families?

That’s a good point. Maybe stick a co-working space up there too? Though I’ll admit I’d get nothing done looking out over a view like that… 😉

I think you’re right about the arboretum and the great playground there. It’s the only reason I can think that people might make the trip out to the cafe during the week (assuming they’re locals and not tourists).

Holden Caulfield11:06 am 15 Jun 15

Dame Canberra said :

…I’d like to think there’s potential to make the tower an attraction for locals too. I’d love to go up there for a really good coffee and/or breakfast on a weekend and admire the view…

I like this idea. Although they’d need to get weekday traffic too you’d assume.

The Arboretum does this reasonably well at the moment, but is that because it’s new or because it has a cool playground which attracts families?

A museum of technology would work well up there, or even just a really good café/function room.

At the end of the day, it mostly needs a bit of a face lift – a good clean and a freshen up. The view is spectacular, it wouldn’t take much to remind us of that.

Dame Canberra10:50 am 15 Jun 15

“a great relief for Canberrans to see when travelling on the Barton Highway after a seven-hour (or longer) drive from Melbourne.” Agreed!

I’d like to think there’s potential to make the tower an attraction for locals too. I’d love to go up there for a really good coffee and/or breakfast on a weekend and admire the view. In all seriousness, let some of the people who run cafes on Lonsdale Street and in New Acton take a stab at refurbishing the cafe and doing up a great menu. I would be there.

The last time I was there (many, many years ago) the tower cafe was serving just standard tourist fare, which isn’t that appealing to visitors or locals. Lots of opportunity to refresh a much-loved but tired attraction.

I wish the restaurant would reopen. Seems like the perfect venue. The restaurant restraints (Bistro/Al La Carte on top of the Sydney Tower always seems busy (and over priced) Lennon’s in Brisbane was also really busy, people love a view when they eat.

I know it closed down in 2013, but with the right food and pricing, I fail to see how it could fail.

A real shame in my opinion.

Holden Caulfield10:18 am 15 Jun 15

Centrepoint Tower in Sydney (no modern-day attempts to change its name will wash with me) is a tacky tourist trap. The 4D movie thing is a waste of time and at $26.50 to visit you’d hope there was a half decent cafe so you could at least sit down for a bit to enjoy the view. Sadly not. There’s nothing from there that Telstra Tower should try and emulate.

Although, the Sky Walk thing might be okay, but seeing as you can already walk outside at the Telstra Tower it would be a tough gig to charge people more to dress up in daggy jump suits and play with chains.

Its primary purpose is not as a tourist attraction, rather a communications tower and TV/FM Radio transmission site. Think it does that very well.

Everything else is a bonus.

justin heywood10:11 am 15 Jun 15

Good point. A huge icon and an amazing building in the city’s centre, virtually unused.

Other towns have ‘big’ things. Big bananas, big pineapple, big sheep etc. As the nation’s capitol, we could go with ‘big white elephant’.

Seriously though, I think that a museum of technology would be an appropriate use. The entire building is an example of changing technology, the CSIRO and ANU are nearby, and such a place would be another attractive stopover for the bus loads of school children who visit us from all over the country.

I always thought it was purpose built as a communications tower. It doesn’t need any tacky amusement ride type attractions but it could do with a good clean-up and refreshing of the landscaping.

John Hargreaves9:35 am 15 Jun 15

What! Its not a lighthouse? I suppose thetes no Easter bunny either. Or tooth fairy
My life is over.

I tell visitors it’s a lighthouse.

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