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Tired Telstra Tower has sky high possibilities

By Kim Fischer - 15 June 2015 45

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?

What’s Your opinion?


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45 Responses to
Tired Telstra Tower has sky high possibilities
Tymefor 12:00 pm 15 Jun 15

Zip Line terminating in the botanical gardens!!!

Everything is better with a Zip Line

VYBerlinaV8_is_back 11:48 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.

rubaiyat 11:47 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?

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

dungfungus 11:26 am 15 Jun 15

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 Canberra 11:09 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 Caulfield 11:06 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?

madelini 11:04 am 15 Jun 15

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 Canberra 10:50 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.

dlenihan 10:40 am 15 Jun 15

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 Caulfield 10:18 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.

JC 10:12 am 15 Jun 15

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 heywood 10:11 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.

dungfungus 10:01 am 15 Jun 15

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 Hargreaves 9:35 am 15 Jun 15

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

Acton 8:02 am 15 Jun 15

I tell visitors it’s a lighthouse.

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