The ACT government wants to spend more than $500 million to build a 30,000-seat stadium at Bruce by 2033, committing to another location feasibility study in the hope of ending a 14-year debacle.
He has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Australian Sports Commission - the federal government agency which owns the AIS and Canberra Stadium - to develop a masterplan for the 64 hectare site over the next 18 months.
If the latest $300,000 feasibility study - the sixth of its type since 2009 - deems Bruce unsuitable, the government will pursue Exhibition Park as its last-resort stadium option.
Either way, Barr's own city stadium vision of the past decade - which he has dismissed as too expensive and too complicated over the past year - is now officially dead as he pushes ahead with a precinct revitalisation.
It is expected the new plan will take up to 10 years to complete and the government will take its updated study to the federal government in an attempt to secure a joint-funding arrangement.
The federal government says it is open to a partnership, and set a stadium-funding precedence by committing $305m to Tasmania's stadium projects earlier this year.
MORE CANBERRA SPORT
- Commonwealth Park emerges as Civic pool locations
- The statistic that could see the Raiders create history
- 'Total disregard for the racing codes': Parton says ACT govt trying to 'starve racing to death'
- 'Something you can only dream of': Leonard set to captain the Wallaroos
- The Voice: How university sport can help 'get rid of that misinformation'
The total costs of building at Bruce are unknown, but the government says the project will be at least $500m.
To put that in context, a $200,000 Barr-commissioned study in 2021 revealed a 25,000-capacity Civic stadium could be built for $580m if complete by 2027, despite Barr describing the city option as a "billion-dollar folly".
"The ACT government will partner with the Australian Sports Commission to work together to maintain and enhance the AIS precinct as a vibrant hub for high performance sport and innovation, with a significantly redeveloped or new 30,000 seat stadium as a key feature," the infrastructure plan says.
"... Funding has been provided for an options analysis as part of a broader $2.2 million investment into strategic infrastructure planning for major arts, business, entertainment and sports venues."
The new infrastructure plan includes plans to upgrade amenities at Manuka Oval, a Basketball ACT expansion in Belconnen, investment at Mt Stromlo for mountain biking and community sport fields, and improvements at existing venues.
But the 1970s-built stadium has been one of the biggest sporting infrastructure issues in Canberra since Barr first flagged the need for a new venue in 2009. Back then, he revealed options to rebuild the venue at Bruce to be a part of Australia's men's soccer World Cup bid.
Now a study will examine three similar options to those canvassed 14 years ago: build a new stadium on the eastern side of the existing stadium to minimise the impact on the Canberra Raiders and ACT Brumbies; to do a staged redevelopment of Canberra Stadium; or do a complete knockdown and rebuild.
"This analysis will provide certainty around approach, cost and timing. The goal is to agree on the approach for the stadium development with the Australian Government, with the project proceeding within a 5-10-year timeframe," the plan says.
Barr has resisted attempts to put the Civic pool site back on the agenda as the preferred stadium choice, sticking to the plan for an indoor concert arena in the city and a new stadium at Bruce.
"Canberra has been missing out on many major touring artists because we lack an iconic live music venue such as the Hordern Pavilion in Sydney and Palais Theatre in Melbourne," Barr said.
"It's time for our city to have its own iconic live music venue in the city centre, and the government will start the detail planning and design for the project.
"The project is one of many in the government's plans to realise our ambition for Canberra to be recognised as Australia's emerging cultural, arts and entertainment hub. This includes plans for rectangular stadium renewal in a revitalised AIS precinct and improvements at Manuka Oval."
The government's long-term vision is to connect the stadium in Bruce to the city, Gungahlin and Woden via a light-rail extension to Belconnen.
The government has commissioned five previous studies - that's one almost every two years in various forms - to examine stadium locations and options.
One of the hurdles to looking at Bruce has been ownership. The government rents the stadium from the sports commission for events, and is responsible for the upkeep as part of the terms.
The ACT had a $1 peppercorn lease to use Canberra Stadium until the terms changed in 2017, when the rent was upped to $350,000 per year. It remains unclear who would own a new stadium at Bruce.
Now, it appears, the government and commission are on the same page and will formally work together.
Sports commission boss Kieren Perkins is adamant the AIS will remain in Canberra despite political attempts to move it to Queensland ahead of the Brisbane Olympics in 2032.
"This is an important step and aligns with the discussions the ASC is having with the Australian government regarding the revitalisation of the high performance sport facilities at the AIS precinct," Perkins said.
"The AIS has a deep-seated value to the Canberra community, and we look forward to engaging in discussions with the ACT government to ensure it is a vibrant precinct available for sport, entertainment, and community use."
Barr has been one of the biggest supporters for a new stadium in Canberra since his days as sport minister, but his plans have been derailed by the Mr Fluffy cleanup bill, the cost of light rail and COVID-19.
The government considered a stadium masterplan in 2009, which included oval and rectangular stadiums next to each other as one option, or a joint super stadium to cater for all sports as another.
Barr wants to increase the capacity of the existing stadium from 24,000 to 30,000 to ensure Canberra can host international events in the future, as well as allowing for growth in the NRL and Super Rugby supporter bases.
We've made it a whole lot easier for you to have your say. Our new comment platform requires only one log-in to access articles and to join the discussion on The Canberra Times website. Find out how to register so you can enjoy civil, friendly and engaging discussions. See our moderation policy here.