The NRL has thrown its support behind a proposed new stadium in Civic, and flagged the potential development as a site for future representative matches
League chief Andrew Abdo told The Canberra Times a brand new stadium in Canberra would be an ideal venue for future international matches or an NRL preseason All Stars game, along with providing a much-needed new playing home for the Canberra Raiders.
Abdo was in town with ARLC chair Peter V'landys on Tuesday night, and received a tour of the Raiders' new training facility in Braddon - his first since taking over as NRL boss in September last year.
His visit came just days after the ACT Government called on their federal counterparts to invest in a new venue to replace Canberra Stadium - currently being leased from the Commonwealth until 2024.
An extension on that lease is a possibility, but ultimately the site will likely be redeveloped.
The ACT Government's preference would be to build a 25,000-plus seat infinity bowl stadium on the site of the Civic Pool, which would house the Raiders and Brumbies along with other sports and entertainment.
A development at Exhibition Park is also on the table, but Abdo said the NRL would favour a more city-centric option.
"Providing a great, live event experience for fans is really important for us but if you look anywhere around the world, the location of the stadium is critical," Abdo said.
"Having the stadium located close to where people are and where fans are is obviously really important. Having a modern facility where fans can stay connected and they can get a better live experience is obviously good for our game but it's good for a multitude of sports in Canberra and in the broader ACT, and the broader regional catchment as well.
"If there was investment in a new stadium, we would look to bring NRL content here too, not just the Raiders - Test matches, All Stars, preseason games and the likes."
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Built in 1977, Canberra Stadium has rapidly become outdated compared with its NRL contemporaries and predates the original Sydney Football and Parramatta Stadiums.
The former is being redeveloped, while the latter was rebuilt and opened in 2019 as the new jewel in the crown of western Sydney sport.
The Raiders moved to Canberra Stadium from Queanbeyan's Seiffert Oval in 1990, and have played home matches there ever since.
During that time, the Brisbane Broncos, North Queensland Cowboys, Melbourne Storm and Gold Coast Titans have all upgraded to state-of-the-art playing facilities.
"You have to be keeping up with technology, you have to be keeping up with what people want," Abdo said.
"A centre of excellence like this [in Braddon] is superb for the club, a new stadium would be even better for the fans.
"We are working with the NSW government with a plan to modernise and rejuvenate several stadiums in and around the city, and to see more of the 20, 25 thousand seat stadiums which we think is just perfect for rugby league. We will continue thinking about how we can do that across our 16 clubs."
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr expected to extend the Canberra Stadium lease at the end of 2024, and said any proposed stadium in Civic would likely be a 10-year project.
"We've got a lease rental arrangement with the Commonwealth [at Canberra Stadium] until the end of 2024," Barr said.
"We anticipate that that will be extended so I guess the decision point largely sits with the Commonwealth.
"In the meantime, there's some further planning change that would be necessary in terms of the Civic site. It is a project as identified in our 10 year infrastructure plan.
"[There] is just not room in the next four years, either fiscally, or in terms of industry capacity - so that is the second half of this decade. Everyone cool your jets, it will happen but it's not going to happen in the next four years."
The Raiders' next play at Canberra Stadium in round three against the New Zealand Warriors.