7 May 2023

Will there be a campaign to include AFL into the planning for the proposed new Canberra sports stadium?

| Tim Gavel
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Imagining the new Civic stadium

Imagining a new Civic stadium. Photo: GHDWoodhead.

The twists, turns and backflips on the proposed new facility to replace Canberra Stadium ensure that nothing out of the ordinary would be a surprise.

First, it was going to be an indoor stadium on the Civic Olympic Pool footprint. Plenty were sold on the idea of the City to the Lake concept.

Then it was decided there wasn’t enough room on the site to cater for the stadium despite new seating concepts requiring a reduced footprint.

Funding for the project also continually dropped down the priority order.

Other sites were canvassed, including Exhibition Park Mitchell, before the ACT Government ended up at the current site, the AIS precinct.

GIO Stadium

Canberra Stadium / GIO: its days are numbered (but that doesn’t mean it will be hanging around). Photo: Supplied.

To end up at the existing location of Canberra Stadium feels as if the whole concept has come full circle.

There are, of course, hurdles to overcome, including the fact that the site is owned by the Commonwealth. Funding will be needed. And where do the Raiders, Brumbies and, potentially, an A-League Men’s team play while Canberra Stadium is being replaced?

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The ACT Government, no doubt, would have been buoyed by the Federal funding contributed to Tasmania for a new stadium, but the proposal to build on the current Canberra Stadium footprint could create further issues.

With capacity to increase the playing surface size, will there now be an argument to include AFL in the planning and build a retractable stadium instead of the rectangular facility, which is far more suitable for league, union and soccer?

Manuka Oval

Manuka Oval. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

I pen these thoughts in the wake of the GWS home game at Manuka, which attracted a crowd of 10,461.

There were complaints from patrons about facilities, including toilets.

No doubt there will be a call for more funds to upgrade Manuka for AFL and cricket.

Will there also be a campaign to include AFL in the planning for the proposed new stadium if it’s built at Bruce, given the Civic Olympic Pool site is too small for an oval-shaped playing surface?

Artist's impression of the surrounds of new city stadium

Artist’s impression of the Civic Pool site and surrounds if considered for a new city stadium. Photo: GHDWoodhead.

Including AFL in the mix for a new stadium would increase the cost, with retractable seating likely required, but it would also detract from the fan experience for rugby league, rugby union and soccer.

The argument might be swayed if the Giants played more home games in Canberra without further ACT Government contributions.

The ACT Government is already contributing $28.5 million to GWS over the next years to play three premiership games in the men’s and two in the AFLW.

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It would make sense for GWS to play more games in Canberra. On average, crowds at Manuka are bigger than at the Sydney Showground.

The Giants attracted 9691 for the round three game against Carlton at the Showground, while the GWS round six fixture against Brisbane at Manuka drew 10,461.

GWS Giants

GWS Giants v Port Adelaide game at Manuka Oval in April 2017. Photo: File.

Last season two of the Giants’ three biggest home crowds were at Manuka Oval. This supports the argument that GWS is more popular in Canberra than in Sydney.

There could be an argument that the expenditure of government funding requires as much use as possible. Adding AFL to the mix might encourage more government funding.

As mentioned earlier, though, purpose-built rectangular stadiums are far more palatable for the fans in three of the four major football codes played in Canberra.

Also, are there still plans to have a stadium with a roof? I’ve lost track.

The Canberra Stadium proposal has already gone through many machinations, and we haven’t even settled on a site.

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That’s what Manuka Oval is for

‘Theres only a few games of AFL in Canberra that attract the high numbers, so we should have more games. ‘
Nosense arguement, if there are more games less people will attend each one, as is the case in Sydney.

Canberra isn’t big enough for three codes. We’re NRL and always have been. Union also gets a go.

They should have raised london circuit to put the stadium on the hill.
Then the triangle would be AWM, NPH, and Stadium.

Now it’s all starting to make sense – we need to incorporate an AFL oval system into the new stadium. On saturday there were over 10,000 – but with more cover and better facilities it could of been say 14,000. I didn’t go
at the last minute because it started to rain from 7.00pm and I new I’d get trench all night as the kingston side of the ground has no cover. As usual good unbiased reporting by Tim.

Televising games and Canberra winters have knocked big crowds on the head. Admission prices haven’t helped. Giants Without Supporters will never be a thing in Canberra. Rebuild the AIS stadium for 25000 covered seats. But first build a decent indoor stadium for basketball.

Nothing worse than trying to watch rugby or soccer on a Cricket/ AFL ground. Kills the atmosphere and viewing experience.

The real question is how the ACT could justify their ongoing $100 a ticket subsidy for each attendee at a GWS game.

Wait, what subsidy?

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