The AIS Arena has become the largest white elephant in Canberra, with the federal government refusing to respond to queries from the ACT government about the shuttered venue's future.
The Sunday Canberra Times can reveal all bookings for events this year have been cancelled, with no work to reopen the arena - which has hosted both elite sport and concerts - completed or planned almost a year on from its closure.
Federal Sports Minister Richard Colbeck said he has had conversations with the ACT government about the condition of the arena, and a final decision on the facility's future has not been made.
But a spokeswoman for ACT Sports Minister Yvette Berry said Mr Colbeck had not responded to correspondence from the territory government questioning the decision to close the arena.
"The ACT government understands the closure of the AIS Arena by Sport Australia remains indefinite," the spokeswoman said.
Mr Colbeck said the arena was no longer a requirement for the Australian Institute of Sport and the federal government would need to decide where to best invest in sports facilities.
"It's not something that we're looking at utilising in the long term as a sporting centre because it's no longer fit for purpose," he said.
The AIS Arena would need significant upgrades before it could be opened again for public events, a spokesman for Sport Australia said.
The program of works, understood to cost up to $5 million, would take at least six months.
"We recognise the Arena was an important facility for the Canberra community, however, the ASC has to prioritise upgrades to high performance facilities including resurfacing the AIS Track and upgrades to the AIS Testing Pool, AIS Recovery Centre and Indoor Basketball Training facility," the spokesman said.
"Future investments in the site will be considered in the context of supporting high performance outcomes and site amenity."
The arena's closure leaves the ACT without a venue to accommodate large crowds at elite sport and concerts.
The last major sporting fixture at the arena was the Women's National Basketball League grand final played between the Canberra Capitals and Southside Flyers in March last year, which attracted a crowd of more than 4400 people.
The next largest indoor venue in Canberra, the National Convention Centre, has a capacity of 1700.
Sport Australia and the AIS are considering a wide range of options to redevelop the institute's campus, where more than half of the facilities have been deemed "not fit for purpose" in Infrastructure Australia's 2021 priority list.
Sport Australia submitted a business case to the federal government almost two years ago for a proposal to cut 65-hectare AIS campus in half, sell off the unused land and spend $200 million on redevelopment works.
Land and major assets could be sold to the ACT government under the proposal.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr called on the federal government in August to complete a small upgrade of the AIS Arena to give the territory time to build a new facility.
Mr Barr said the ACT government would not buy the arena but wanted the federal government to keep it running.
"We've determined that the ACT government will not be buying AIS Arena and so what we are looking at is the Commonwealth puts in place a small investment to keep it going for several more years as we contemplate our options for a new arena," Mr Barr said.
Mr Barr said the arena had a limited life span, whether the federal government decided to sell off the facility or not.
"We won't be buying a 40-year-old arena that's ultimately too small for our city's future needs," he said.
Sport Australia has previously refused to detail the costs and work required to reopen the arena.
Upgrades would be needed for old systems including "lighting, seating and other infrastructure", the body said.
AIS director Peter Conde said this week the institute continued to engage with the federal government about the rejuvenation of the institute's campus.
"There is a range of demands on the government at the moment with the pandemic situation, but we do have a strong case with the government," Mr Conde said.
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