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COMMENT

Saturday Serve: Getting crowds back to Canberra Stadium more than just cheaper pies

Is taking $1 off the price of meat pies and making other food at Canberra Stadium that little bit cheaper really going to bring the crowds back to our two footy codes?

We're not taking about massive savings.

Will cheaper food prices bring the crowds back to Canberra Stadium?
Will cheaper food prices bring the crowds back to Canberra Stadium? Photo: Jay Cronan

A meat pie - the staple of a football diet - has dropped from $5.50 to $4.50, a hot dog is now $5 (previously $6.50) and a bucket of hot chips, an essential for a chilly winter's night, is $4 and not $5.

There are also discounts on healthier options, with the price of a salad coming down by $2.

It's all great news for families who are always keen to find ways of having an affordable night or day at the footy with the kids.

But really, it's only the tip of the iceberg of aspects of the Canberra Stadium match-day experience that need to improve to bring the crowds back.

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The Brumbies and the Raiders both should be playing in front of big crowds based on the brand of football they play and the expected levels of success.

With 11 Wallabies in their line-up and having made the finals for the past three seasons, the Brumbies are one of the must-see teams in Super Rugby.

Yet their average crowds have dipped significantly from their glory days of the early 2000s.

The most concerning figure is in membership, which is hovering around the 7000-8000 mark.

Meanwhile, optimism for the Raiders leading into a season hasn't been this high in many years.

Coach Ricky Stuart has continued to add to the club's roster in his third season in charge, bringing in Gold Coast Titans star Aiden Sezer, English international Elliott Whitehead and promising Knights forward Joe Tapine.

Throw in the likes of Blake Austin, Josh Hodgson, Jack Wighton, Jarrod Croker, Edrick Lee and Josh Papalii, and it's easy to see why Raiders fans can't wait for the season to get underway.

Attracting fans to the game isn't as simple as putting together a good product on the field.

A whole range of factors come into it.

Ticketing needs to be affordable, food and drink at the ground has to be for the right price and quality and all amenities must be at a high standard.

We must accept Canberra Stadium will be the home for both teams for at least another decade thanks to the Mr Fluffy debacle forcing the ACT Government to shelve plans for an indoor stadium in Civic.

Built in 1977, Canberra Stadium is getting close to the end of its useable life.

Renovations will need to be undertaken to ensure patrons continue to get the best experience possible.

Despite its age, the ground can still be a great venue to watch football.

Nearly every seat at the 25,000 capacity ground is close enough to the action that you can feel the sweat coming off the players.

The biggest complaints you hear about Canberra Stadium centre around parking and the queues for the food and drink outlets.

The ACT Government should be commended for including public transport into the price of a ticket for both Raiders and Brumbies games.

That was also the case for the GWS Giants' NAB Challenge game at Manuka Oval on Thursday night.

Hopefully the food savings can filter through to AFL games in Canberra.

Can't say I was too impressed paying $5.50 for a pie and $6.50 for a mid-strength beer.

Parking is always going to be an issue at Bruce as is the huge line of cars funnelling their way into the stadium.

As for the queues at the food and drink outlets, the easy solution is to employ more catering staff.

Easier said than done I know, but nobody wants to miss the first 20 minutes of the game while they are waiting to be served.

An additional replay screen at the southern end of the ground would also add to the experience of the fans.

Professional sport is these days competing with a wide range of activities for the public's time and money.

If the stadium experience isn't up to scratch, people are more likely to either watch the games at home, either on free to air or pay television, or at a pub with a few mates.

Our city's football teams deserve to play in front of big crowds.

Both the Raiders and the Brumbies have kept ticket prices at an affordable level to cater for all budgets.

Now, the biggest challenge is enticing the punters to vote with their feet and get behind their teams.

Slashing $1 off the price of a the humble meat pie mightn't be a big deal, but it's at least a start.

The next step is improving all aspects of the match-day experience so that fans, young and old, can enjoy themselves while supporting their favourite team.