An initial non-binding contract has been signed between the ACT Government and an investment firm and its development arm for a new ice sport and skating facility in Tuggeranong.
The project has been promised by Chief Minister Andrew Barr since 2016 and was again committed to by ACT Labor in the lead-up to the 2020 election, although a timeline – and its funding arrangements – remain scarce.
It’s also raised further questions about the future viability of the much-embattled Phillip Swimming and Ice Skating Centre.
Earlier this year, Cruachan Investments Limited and developers Pelligra Holdings Pty Ltd put forward a detailed proposal for the Tuggeranong facility.
Together, those companies will design, construct, own and operate the facility which will house an Olympic-sized twin rink and a rock climbing centre with capacity for 2000 spectators.
Others have high hopes for the facility to become the curling capital of Australia.
The Tuggeranong site on Rowland Rees Crescent in Greenway is one of four ice rink projects the group has in the works across the country.
Cruachan director Stephen Campbell said in a statement he was pleased the proposal had been supported by the Territory government.
“[We] look forward to working with the government and ice sports on this project,” he said.
“The proposed facility will provide the ACT with world-class infrastructure to grow ice sports at all levels.”
Last year, Mr Campbell said construction was expected to start in June of this year, in an ideal world, and it was likely to be an 18-month construction job.
But in annual reports hearings on Monday (7 November), Sports Minister Yvette Berry and officials wouldn’t be drawn on providing any timeline, saying the appropriate design and planning processes would be followed first.
Ms Berry said a detailed announcement would be made in the coming weeks, but this news was “very exciting” nonetheless.
“I know this has taken some time and there has been a level of frustration at the gap between our commitment to building the facility and any work actually progressing on it, but I’m very pleased to announce we now have a contract with the developer of the ice sports facility,” she told the hearing.
Executive branch manager sport and recreation Rebecca Kelly confirmed any timeline now sat in the hands of the developer.
“Once we get to signing the next stage of the contract, it will be up to them to work through planning and design and approval processes,” she said.
“The best we can say at this time is that we’d hope to see the facility out of the ground in the next couple of years.”
Officials were also questioned about additional uses for the facility, such as community room hire, but again said much of this would be determined through the upcoming design, planning and approvals process.
“Certainly, it is an international twin rink facility with curling and rock climbing,” Ms Kelly said.
“We also will be looking … at opportunities to cover the ice so it could be used as an indoor arena for other events.”
Government officials downplayed any risks relating to the private provision of ice rink services in the Territory, arguing the feasibility study had proven it would be viable.
Details about funding arrangements for the facility were also scarce.
It was confirmed that private companies would need to purchase the land, but no detail was provided about how much the government would pay.
ACT Ice Sports Federation president Tony Prescott welcomed the announcement, as did CBR Brave Chief Operating Officer Steve Moeller, who is excited about the news from Minister Berry.
“This is great news for the CBR Brave, ice hockey and all ice sports in Canberra. The opportunity to have a twin-sheet facility gives us the potential to grow our fan base and – in conjunction with Ice Hockey ACT – help develop our sport immensely,” Mr Moeller said
The ice sports community has long been calling for a larger, more suitable ice rink.
John Raut, manager of Phillip Swimming and Ice Skating Centre, told Region last year that an ice sports facility in Tuggeranong would sound the death knell for the Phillip rink.
But he said he would reserve further comment until construction commenced, noting the plan had now been in the works for years.