GWS Giants chairman Tony Shepherd says a proposed $800 million upgrade of the Manuka Oval precinct will cement the AFL's relationship with Canberra, declaring his goal is to make sure the club is in the capital forever.
The Giants are leading a private consortium for a redevelopment in Manuka, with the details of the unsolicited bid to be announced on Wednesday.
It would involve a makeover for the stands, including 4750 permanent seats to replace temporary seating and new roofing to cover 80 per cent of capacity, as well as improving corporate suites, media facilities and player change rooms.
The deal would be subject to a formal approval process, but Shepherd has no doubt it would lay the platform for sell-out crowds for international cricket and AFL in Canberra.
The Giants have a 10-year deal with the ACT government worth $23 million to play three AFL premiership matches and a pre-season fixture in Canberra until the end of 2021.
Canberra AFL supporters have been burnt in the past by clubs taking a cash-grab to play games at Manuka Oval and leaving when the money dries up.
But Shepherd has forecast a long-term future in the capital and hopes a Manuka Oval redevelopment would help boost crowds for all sports at the venue.
"Canberra is part of our DNA [at the Giants]. We've been looking for an opportunity to cement our relationship with Canberra a lot more solidly, beyond the 10-year deal with the ACT government," Shepherd said.
"We realise the AFL has been in and out of Canberra over the years and disappointed people. We really want to make sure we're locked in for the future.
"We've got to put down roots in Canberra, become part of the fabric and we see this as part of that if it goes through the process.
"... I want to make sure that when I retire as [Giants] chairman that we are so welded on to Canberra that there's no chance of us ever moving."
The proposed development would look to develop commercial and residential opportunities, including a new hotel, serviced apartments and 140,000 square metres of retail and office space.
It is hoped the makeover would make Manuka Oval a more attractive option for sport and entertainment by having a similar effect to that experienced from the Adelaide Oval redevelopment.
The government still has plans to build a new rectangular stadium with a roof in Civic to be the home of the ACT Brumbies, Canberra Raiders and a potential A-League team in the future.
However, those plans have been pushed back as the government funds the Mr Fluffy loose-fill asbestos clean-up. It's unlikely construction on a new stadium would not start until at least 2020.
The Brumbies have been working to make changes at Canberra Stadium to give fans a better experience, with the Super Rugby season to kick off on February 26.
"Canberra is our national capital, it should be respected. To play sport in our national capital is an honour," Shepherd said.
"I want to see the Giants in Canberra forever ... sometimes Canberra gets bypassed because the facilities aren't there, but an upgrade at Manuka Oval would give it a chance."
The Manuka Oval facilities are below industry standard for cricket and AFL. Cricket Australia build a temporary media venue for international matches while the change rooms need to be updated.
Canberra is on the verge of hosting its first Test cricket match, with officials exploring the prospect of shifting a game to Manuka Oval.
The government has contributed millions of dollars to Manuka Oval in recent years to install lights and resurface the playing field.
But Shepherd believes the proposed redevelopment would change the face of Canberra sport and secure the Giants' future in the capital.
"[The plan] is not just for cricket, it's for all sports to be played in an arena like that and for entertainment. This will give Canberra an international-grade venue," Shepherd said.
"There will be no commitments from sports [to play in Canberra], but it will certainly ensure there's a facility adequate to host those big games."