5 March 2023

Wherefore art thou new Civic Stadium site? Commonwealth Park perhaps?

| Tim Gavel
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Commonwealth Park

Commonwealth Park as a possible site for the new stadium? Photo: File.

With indecision over the funding, the site, and the capacity, the proposed new stadium for Canberra appears to be gridlocked.

At least four locations have been proposed: the current stadium site at Bruce, Exhibition Park at Mitchell, the Civic Olympic Pool site and the Turner Parklands.

Render of new Civic Stadium

Imagining the new Civic stadium. Photo: GHDWoodhead.

The Civic Olympic Pool site was originally put forward as the preferred option given the proximity to the city with its amenity, effectively fulfilling the brief put forward in the City to the Lake master plan.

But the Civic Olympic Pool site appears to have fallen off the radar because of the size of the footprint, which would limit the size of the stadium. There was also the argument about the direction the stadium would need to be positioned to allow the grass to grow with appropriate sunlight.

The escalating cost is also deemed prohibitive because of the proximity to Parkes Way and the need for the stadium to overhang the roadway. Alternatively, Parkes Way could be realigned but at considerable expense.

aerial shot of Coranderrk Street roundabout on Parkes Way

The Coranderrk Street roundabout on Parkes Way. Image: Screenshot.

Mitchell was briefly mentioned as a potential site but without any real momentum, while the Turner Parklands option garnered even less public support.

Rebuilding on the existing Canberra Stadium footprint is a possibility, but it goes away from the original concept of a stadium linking the city to the lake.

With this concept in mind, is it worth considering Commonwealth Park as a potential site for the new stadium?

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The National Capital Authority is the custodian of the 34.2-hectare park on behalf of the Australian Government. The NCA controls the maintenance of the park.

Stage 88 in the middle of Commonwealth Park is used for outdoor concerts, with the annual flower show Floriade a major feature since 1988.

Is it worth at least looking at the option of building a new stadium on this site?

It wouldn’t be as restrictive regarding land size as the Civic Olympic Pool site. It’s also near Civic and would be in keeping with the City to the Lake concept.

Floriade Reimagined, Spring, flowers, tulips Photo: Michelle Kroll Region Media

The much-beloved spring festival, Floriade, at Commonwealth Park. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

But Floriade is a major attraction for Canberra and needs to be protected.

Maybe Floriade could be held at another nearby venue. Perhaps Weston Park is a possibility, or Lennox Gardens, just over the Commonwealth Bridge.

The reason why I am putting forward Commonwealth Park as an option is the impasse that has developed with every other potential site encountering obstacles, such as size and location.

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Canberra also urgently needs an upgraded Convention Centre with the Capital being outpaced by possibly every other major city attracting conventions and conferences as a major industry.

If the stadium isn’t to be built on the site of the Civic Olympic Pool, is this a potential location for a new Convention Centre?

Artist's impression of the surrounds of new city stadium

Artist’s impression of the surrounds of the new city stadium. Photo: GHDWoodhead.

As I said at the outset, the main reason for putting forward another option for the location of a new stadium is frustration at the lack of progress. The longer this is put off, the more likely it is relegated to the ‘too hard’ basket.

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Building a new stadium would mean a greater share of the artistic roadshow.

We’d have to build the stadium with good acoustics, rather than cheapest and well known builder.

Billy Monfries8:57 am 08 Mar 23

Why is this even being discussed? Canberra Stadium at Bruce is barely reaching 50% capacity for 90% of matches in both rugby codes. Secondly, the site discussion seems to revolve around city centre sites, minus any of them having the space to do this effectively. The only real place to build this white elephant would be to undertake lake infill opposite the National Museum of Australia. That would create the ability to have an overpass to New Acton, therefore activating the city. If this stadium was to be built with a capacity under 40,000, then it becomes a complete waste of time.

Not sure where you got your attendance data from. Raiders averaged a half full 12,600 last year despite Covid, bad weather, lower drawing teams and a stadium that is cold and a long

The reason why the current stadium is regularly only half full is literally due to the location and quality of the facilities.

A City stadium would provide key linkages to public transport and amenities that would be significantly beneficial to the area as it is in other cities with similar facilities.

There are definite difficulties around costs and possible locations but it’s a perfectly reasonable discussion to be having.

I doubt it gets off the ground though unless they find some private investors or the Federal government wants to engage in some pork barrelling (extremely unlikely).

Billy Monfries6:52 pm 08 Mar 23

Thats near enough exactly what I said.

Methinks the presence of the grey headed flying fox colony would on its own be sufficient to rule out Commonwealth Park as a site for a new stadium and associated apartment development … but with this NCA/CRA/LaborGreens alliance in charge of planning in Canberra anything could happen.

Na – get it out of the civic area. No-one wants it there. Upgrade existing and spend valuable taxpayers money on some worthy projects, not on a potentially empty stadium for 6 months a year.

ChrisinTurner12:40 pm 07 Mar 23

To get government support the stadium would need to include highrise apartments and a tram stop.

Wherefore means why. That’s all I came to say.

Commonwealth park is a pretty good option really. Apart from Floriade its not really used and all that could be moved to Weston Park. Regardless Canberra really needs to make a new stadium happen, Bruce is an embarrassment.

Bruce is an awesome precinct for sports and live events as it is. There is so much space out there and good roads connecting to it. Why not just re-build/renovate the existing stadium out there? What’s with getting hung-up on trying to find a new location? Waste of time and money trying to move to a new location, really, not to mention impact on existing uses and neighbours of all the other sites proposed.

At Bruce, we could arrange for the future light rail from Civic to Belconnen to go past it? That helps with accessibility. For people that don’t want to catch PT, they can just drive there.

For anyone that wants to kick-on in town after the event, they can make their own way to wherever they want to go.

As a longer-term plan for the precinct, we could also revamp The Palace as a well-sound-proofed multi-purpose indoor venue for live concerts and hard-court-sports (oh, and bring back the Canons while we’re at it!)

Burley Griffin originally had a sports stadium in the park on the north side of the lake near the bridge, but at Kings Park near the Carillon. I think Commonwealth park could be a great location.

I love how the MCG sits within Yarra Park near the city. There’s still plenty of park space to enjoy and it actually makes the park easier, safer and better to use. Canberra might be able to achieve something similar. Get on board NCA and ACT Government.

Capital Retro10:05 pm 06 Mar 23

Walter Burley Griffin also planned one. What a coincidence!

I checked my copies of original Griffin maps and I couldn’t find a single one where he had a stadium anywhere near any part of the proposed lake.
By the way, his name was actually Walter Burley Griffin and he never called himself Burley. Calling him Burley only became common because PM Robert Menzies decided to call the lake Lake Burley Griffin. It appears that he decided Lake Walter Griffin didn’t sound right.

Commonwealth is an asset for all the community and should not be stolen for use by professional sports.

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