The Canberra Capitals will meet with the ACT government on Wednesday in a bid to solve a venue availability debacle after being blindsided by the AIS Arena closure, describing it as a backwards step for women's sport.
Angry stakeholders have expressed their frustration at Sport Australia's decision to close Canberra's biggest indoor sporting venue and refusing to say whether it will reopen.
It can be revealed Sport Australia only contacted the Capitals, the ACT government and Giants Netball on Monday afternoon despite telling concert promoters of the decision last week.
The poor treatment of Canberra officials has raised questions about why the Arena was closed for "infrastructure work" despite hosting sell-out WNBL crowds in March. Sport Australia has not said what infrastructure work is required to reopen the venue.
The Capitals have been the venue's most consistent tenant for a decade, sharing games between the Arena and Tuggeranong before setting a base at the National Convention Centre.
University of Canberra director for sport Carrie Graf, who oversees the Capitals program, lamented the uncertainty surrounding the capital's premier indoor venue.
"From a sporting perspective ... the two hardest hit teams are the Capitals and the Giants. Two women's sporting teams and it has a massive impact," former Australian Opals coach Graf said.
"For its age ... the AIS Arena has held its age well. But it's in desperate need of a refurb and you'd kind of consider now that this could be the start of demolition.
"We're working on a whole lot of plans ... having to play back at Tuggeranong would be a backwards step for women's sport in a whole lot of ways. We're going to have to look at a whole heap of different ways.
MORE CANBERRA SPORT
"That's the short-term fix. The long-term fix ... maybe it's a wonderful opportunity for the UC Capitals and the Canberra region.
"We got an email of one paragraph saying, 'apologies, no bookings for 2020 and unlikely for 2021'. That's when the Capitals' season happens ... we're going to have to come up with something."
It's understood the NBL or the Illawarra Hawks were not told of the decision to shut the AIS Arena. The Hawks had hoped to shift at least one of their home games to Canberra this season, but the only appropriate venue is now shut.
The Arena was known as "The Palace" in the Canberra Cannons' glory years and has hosted international basketball and the Harlem Globetrotters in recent times.
The government was unaware of Sport Australia's decision until contacted by The Canberra Times, threatening to drive a wedge between ACT politicians and the federal-government agency.
Federal Sport Minister Richard Colbeck said: "It is important to note that the Arena however, is no longer central to the activities of the Australian Institute of Sport.
"The institute's role is to provide the best possible facilities for the development of athletes so they can perform at their best on the national and the global stage, it's not necessarily about providing an entertainment venue.
"Therefore the future of the AIS Arena is not just a matter for the Federal Government. It will also need to involve some contribution from the ACT. My door remains open for those conversations with the ACT Government
The Capitals share their WNBL home games between the AIS Arena and the National Convention Centre in Civic. It's understood the convention centre has a limited number of dates available for the 2020-21 season and its 1800-seat capacity makes it unsuitable for finals matches.
"We were blindsided by this for the current season. We've known the future of the AIS was a little bit unknown and uncertain ... but didn't anticipate it would be closed," Graf said.
"This might be perfect timing, that it forces some big decisions to be made. We've got some well-developed plans for sport at UC. Our Chief Minister has talked for years about future facilities for Canberra and it might be the opportune time to fast-track those. What is it that the city needs?
"Could we have a 3000-seat venue at UC? Or do we need a 10,000-seater ... for me that's exciting."