No new city stadium under Canberra Liberals
The Canberra Liberals say they will upgrade the existing Canberra Stadium (pictured), rather than building a new rectangular stadium in the city centre. Photo: Graham Tidy
The Canberra Liberals will not build a new rectangular stadium in the city centre and will instead upgrade the existing Canberra Stadium if they win the election, ACT Opposition leader Zed Seselja says.
In sharp contrast with the ACT Government, which wants to build a roofed stadium at West Basin by 2020, Mr Seselja has told The Canberra Times the existing Bruce site should instead be upgraded.
He said the money saved by refurbishing the ageing stadium should be spent on health and education.
‘‘If we come into government we will be inheriting a pretty large deficit and [upgrading Canberra Stadium] is not high on our priorities list,’’
‘‘It’s the sort of thing that down the track we would look at ... we haven’t made a final judgment in which way we would lean [in terms of a stadium], but I would be inclined to be working with the current facility we have and improving it over time rather than building a whole new stadium.’’
‘‘I don’t see [building a new stadium] as the best use of resources. Yes [Canberra Stadium] is ageing, but with some improvements down the track I think it can have a very good useful life.’’
The Government’s plan, pushed strongly by Sports Minister Andrew Barr over the last 18 months, has been to build a new venue in the CBD to host ACT Brumbies, Canberra Raiders, soccer matches, concerts and other major events.
The stadium would be similar to an undercover venue in Dunedin in New Zealand which cost $A150 million.
Canberra Stadium will require major upgrades in the coming years with the Meninga Stand nearing the end of its structural lifespan.
The ACT Government has a range of options available to upgrade Canberra’s premier sporting venues and work has already started at Manuka Oval with lights to be installed by the end of the year.
One option was to develop the Bruce precinct to create a more vibrant atmosphere.
But Mr Barr’s preference is to build a new rectangular venue with a clear roof, artificial playing surface and adjustable seating.
While Mr Seselja was cautious of funding a $200 million stadium, Mr Barr said the new venue would be funded by both the private and public sector, which would reduce the government’s financial commitment.
The government started working with architects in March.
The stadium would also have a hotel and Mr Barr said the goal was to have it in use ‘‘300 times a year rather than 20’’.
Ongoing major work at Canberra Stadium could also impact on the venue’s availability for the Brumbies’ Super Rugby seasons and the Raiders’ NRL campaigns.
The Meninga Stand was built in 1977 and has a 50-year lifespan.
‘‘The issue is what will give you the best, long-term value for money,’’ Mr Barr said.
‘‘What would be required to get the same amenity at the existing Canberra Stadium versus a new facility located in the CBD ... basically you have to demolish everything at Canberra Stadium and start again.’’
Mr Barr said a stadium should be part of a broader development in the West Basin and warned the Liberals were proposing a “short-term patch-up”
‘‘At some point in the cycle, this city will have the oldest and most run-down facility if we don’t start doing some planning… in this climate, I think it’s a no-brainer to have a stadium with a roof, it’s a once in 50-year facility ... you may as well do it right.’’
Mr Barr says the new rectangular stadium planned for Civic could also be used to host international netball blockbusters.
It was announced today that the Australian Diamonds will play against New Zealand in the capital for the first time in October next year, to celebrate Canberra’s centenary.
However, Canberra’s chances of getting regular fixtures are limited by the smaller 4000-seat capacity at the AIS Arena.
Australia-New Zealand contests can attract more than 10,000 fans when played in Sydney or Melbourne.