Canberra Raiders CEO Don Furner calls for new Canberra Stadium
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Canberra Raiders CEO Don Furner calls for new Canberra Stadium

Canberra Raiders chief executive Don Furner says the capital needs a new stadium in the city or its sporting landscape risks falling behind the rest of the nation.

A private consortium is advocating a bid for the ACT government to fast-track plans for a new venue in the city with Canberra Stadium deteriorating into a poor spectator experience in the scheme of Australian sport.

Will a stadium in Civic bring crowds back?

Will a stadium in Civic bring crowds back?

Furner is always full of praise for the Green Machine faithful but even he admits he is "always" worried fans might start to turn away, as has been the case for many ACT Brumbies fans this year.

Plans to build a state of the art venue in the city have come to a shuddering halt as the government pours money into the Mr Fluffy loose-fill asbestos clean up and the light rail.

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Furner says the game day experience is almost non-existent in Bruce, adamant a stadium in the city "definitely would make the city a lot more vibrant, particularly down in that part of Civic".

"For the city to go ahead, and for us to keep ask our hearty fans to come back, it would be fantastic. Otherwise we do fall behind," Furner said.

"The city is a very modern city and it’s got some great facilities, but Townsville are getting one soon, Parramatta is even going to get one, every major city will have a better stadium than us.

"There is a big push to have stadia back in the city where there is already key infrastructure for transport and parking. Most cities around Australia are doing that, and it would be fantastic if somebody could come up with a financial model that allows that to happen.

"It’s a tough ask for our fans to come out here in the middle of winter, it really is, and we’re always grateful for our fans that come out here in the middle of winter because I always say they’re the toughest in the NRL."

The Raiders posted their best crowd figures in 22 years last season and are averaging almost 12000 despite an indifferent start to 2018.

Things haven't been so rosy for the ACT Brumbies, who are in danger of recording their worst average crowd figures in 20 years with an average of just 8464 this season.

"We’ve been through what the Brumbies have been through. You have a tough year and they drop off," Furner said.

"You have your hearty souls that stay on, but fantastic facilities to an extent does insure you against that. It weather proofs you a little bit for a tough season or a year that you’re not going so well.

"I feel for them, because we’ve been there. I’m sure that if it was in town it’s a lot easier for an extra 5000 people to turn up.

"We’ll keep conversation going with the government and hopefully there is a property developer or some type of private consortium that can pull it off, because we definitely need it."

NSW Deputy Premier and member from Monaro John Barilaro says Canberra risks missing out on hosting major "global events" if nothing is done about a "tired" showpiece venue.

"If there was ever a city in this country that deserves and rightly needs a stadium that has a roof, it is Canberra with the cold climate," Barilaro told Tim Shaw on 2CC Radio.

"For all of us I think we accept that Canberra Stadium out the back of Belconnen there is getting a little bit tired.

"Therefore the government has the ability to say it is an asset that has come to the end of its lifetime, it is possible that we should be investing in a new stadium, it should be located there at the old pool site in the centre of town which was always the plan, and it will stimulate the economy and grow jobs."

The Raiders have already taken measures to avoid hosting night games during winter, requesting to either host day games in winter or play away games. The Raiders will only host one game in June and one game in July.

Caden Helmers is a sports reporter for The Canberra Times

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