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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Political football: new Canberra stadium kicked down the road

The proposed new Canberra Civic Stadium remains a political football with Labor ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Liberal Senator for the ACT Zed Seselja continuing to pass the buck on timing and finances this week.

It comes as a Canberra Stadium Site Analysis report completed in October 2020 showed a new stadium built on the site of Civic Pool would be more broadly beneficial than one at Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC) due to the pool’s central location.

The report found the Civic Pool site, bounded by Constitution Avenue, Allara Street, Coranderrk Street and Parkes Way in City East, is ideally located, albeit on a modest block that could only accommodate a stadium with “significant Parkes Way alignment” required.

“Its prominent location in the city’s centre, and its relatively dense urban surrounds, presents opportunities for street activation and connectivity with access to supporting industry and access to public and active transport modes,” the report found.

The Civic Pool site stadium would require amendments to the National Capital Plan as the roof would be higher than the current 25m allowance.

To fit the Civic Pool parcel of land, the north and south grandstands would be single-tiered with the east and west grandstands two-tiered.

The three proposed EPIC sites would apply fewer constraints to the construction given the abundance of land.

The report’s main criticism of EPIC is that the precinct “does not currently include complementary developments such as entertainment venues”.

“A wider precinct master plan should be considered to maximise the potential if it is selected as the future site of the new stadium,” it suggested.

The analysis determined construction on a new stadium at either site, if implemented now, would be complete mid-2027.

Signing off on a new stadium sooner rather than later would benefit taxpayers too.

A cost assessment showed a fully-specified Civic Stadium with a full façade and roof cover would cost $567 million if implemented now.

That cost would jump to $637 million if commenced in 2027, and $706 million in 2032.

The price of building in EPIC is fractionally more expensive at each step to the tune of $1-2 million.

Canberra Stadium Bruce
The ACT Government has rented and maintained Canberra Stadium as a tenant since 2001, with the existing lease to expire in 2024. File photo.

Seselja and Barr continue ‘political football’ game

Mr Barr said the decision on the new Canberra Stadium project lies with the Commonwealth’s plans for the AIS complex in Bruce, of which GIO Stadium is a part.

“The financing options for an Institute of Sport upgrade and a stadium upgrade in the ACT are very much contingent on land sales around the current Institute of Sport precinct,” he said.

“That necessitates a joint ACT and Commonwealth government response.”

The ACT Government has rented and maintained Canberra Stadium as a tenant since 2001, with their existing lease to expire in 2024.

“We’d anticipate that that would be extended,” Mr Barr said.

As outlined in the ACT Government’s Infrastructure Plan published October 2019, a new stadium is a “longer term” project to be considered in the second half of this decade.

“I would say to everyone cool your jets, it will happen, but it’s not going to happen in the next four years,” Mr Barr said.

“There is just not room … either fiscally or in terms on industry capacity.”

Previously Mr Barr has said the only way his government could fast-track a Civic stadium would be if the Federal Government forgives what remains on the Mr Fluffy loan, which won’t be paid off until 2024.

ACT Senator Zed Seselja told 2CC Radio this week he would support a Civic stadium project “driven by the ACT Government”.

“I’m certainly a big advocate of a stadium and I think it would need, of course, to be driven by the ACT Government,” Senator Seselja said on 2CC Radio’s Stephen Cenatiempo Breakfast Show.

“I’m always open to supporting valid infrastructure projects in Canberra … when it comes to the stadium itself, I actually think it is worth pursuing.”

Senator Seselja said there is some urgency to getting the project off the ground given Canberra Stadium is quickly approaching “the end of its useful life”.

 “I don’t think it’s ever been a great spot for a stadium and if you look at modern stadiums, the way that they can underpin the life of a city when they’re in town, I think it’d be a fantastic thing for Canberra.

“In the end, if it’s not going to be a high priority for the ACT Government, it will be much harder to deliver Commonwealth support, but I’m always pushing for Commonwealth investment in Canberra,” Senator Seselja said.

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