AIS reveals it has $200m in ageing assets but stays quiet on sale
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AIS reveals it has $200m in ageing assets but stays quiet on sale

Sport Australia boss Kate Palmer says the ageing facilities at the AIS are worth $200 million, but refused to reveal details of the proposed sale of Canberra Stadium at a Senate hearing on Thursday.

Ms Palmer fronted the hearing into Canberra's national institutions to discuss the proposed major redevelopment of the 65-hectare Bruce campus to reinvent the AIS.

The future of Canberra Stadium remains unclear.

The future of Canberra Stadium remains unclear.Credit:Karleen Minney

Ms Palmer, however, said the government was considering the proposals as part of its mid-year fiscal update, due in mid-December, and refused to go into detail on the plans.

Labor MP Warren Snowdon questioned the secrecy around the federal government's plans for the site.

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"Given we can't talk about it, I mean, it's just bizarre," he said, before asking whether the sale of Canberra Stadium was being canvassed.

"We do need to understand the sort of options being discussed here, otherwise this committee is useless."

The ACT government is waiting for Sport Australia to make a decision on the future of its major assets, including Canberra Stadium, the AIS Arena and the AIS pool.

Sport Australia, formerly the Australian Sports Commission, has already declared its intent to downsize its land footprint, which includes athletics, soccer, tennis, gymnastics, swimming, basketball and netball facilities.

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One option floated has been selling the biggest venues - Canberra Stadium, the AIS Arena and the pool - to the ACT government to generate revenue to fund sport.

Sport Australia is a federal government organisation and will need a funding commitment to transform the AIS into a world leader again.

Federal Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie has said the world had caught up to the original AIS model, facilities were in need of "repair and revitalisation" and the institute was no longer at the cutting edge of sport excellence.

Ms Palmer said Sport Australia had reviewed its assets, finding they were in a fair condition. The institute's 65-hectare site had a write-down value of $200 million in ageing assets, including accommodation, parking and other facilities.

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The ACT Brumbies and Canberra Raiders are sweating on Sport Australia's decision to sell Canberra Stadium, with the venue one of the oldest in Super Rugby and the NRL.

The AIS, which was opened in 1981, faces a major challenge to stay relevant, cutting 40 jobs in sports science this year to reshape the institute but also remaining committed to a long-term future in Canberra.

Labor MP Andrew Leigh launched a petition this year to stop job cuts and work on a strategic plan for the AIS into the future.

It is unclear if or how a potential change of federal government next year would affect the plans to revitalise the AIS. Mr Leigh, who represents the ACT seat of Fenner, said: "I’ve long been concerned about the future of the AIS under the Liberals. They’ve lost staff and athletes, and critics have described the facility as a 'ghost town'."

"Transferring the stadium to the ACT government may have merit, but it needs to be part of an overall plan to put the AIS back on the top of the dais," he said.

Doug Dingwall is a reporter for The Canberra Times covering the public service and politics.

Chris Dutton is the sports editor at The Canberra Times.

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