ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr says investing in a new stadium at Bruce is a critical move in the fight to fend off Queensland's rumoured poaching raid on the AIS.
In a sub plot to Barr's infrastructure plan to build a 30,000-seat venue at Bruce by 2033, he said "I'm doing everything I can to keep the AIS in Canberra" despite assurances from the Australian Sports Commission no such move was being considered.
There has been constant talk in federal political circles about a potential Queensland coup, with some senior Labor government members believed to be keen to move the institute north as part of a legacy plan for the Brisbane Olympic Games in 2032.
The absence of federal funding for the 64-hectare campus in this year's budget set off alarm bells in some circles, with the outdated facilities in need of urgent upgrades to ensure it plays a role in Australia's golden decade.
Barr made a point of using the AIS uncertainty as one of the main reasons for choosing Bruce as a new stadium location ahead of Exhibition Park and Civic.
Sports commission boss Kieren Perkins, who also oversees the AIS, has repeatedly rejected suggestion the campus could be moved to Queensland.
Perkins and Barr signed an 18-month memorandum of understanding this week to work together to revitalise the precinct. The sports commission - a federal government agency - owns Canberra Stadium and the AIS facilities.
But Barr said pursuing three redevelopment options at Bruce - a new stadium, a staged redevelopment or a knockdown-rebuild - was critical to securing the institute's future.
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"There is a risk, and there are views, that the AIS should be removed from the ACT," Barr said when justifying Bruce as the new stadium location instead of Civic.
"I strongly oppose that and am doing everything I can to keep the AIS in Canberra. This [memorandum of understanding with the sports commission], sends the strongest possible signal that we will work with the sports commission to keep the AIS in Canberra, to see that precinct renewed.
"We're now engaging on how we can build a really viable and vibrant mixed-use precinct there. Everything from on-site hotels, bars and restaurants."
Perkins has previously outlined his vision for a new and improved AIS in Canberra, including new accommodation, new soccer fields and state of the art indoor-outdoor training facilities.
When asked why he felt the need to use the future of the AIS as a reason for making Bruce the stadium location priority given Perkins has been so resolute, Barr said: "Well, there are competing views as to whether relocating the facility to Queensland ahead of the Brisbane Olympics is a preferred pathway.
"Kieren and I are on the same page, but not everyone is of that view."
The federal government spent $2 million on a business case in 2019 to develop a 30-year vision for the institute and reinvigorate the Bruce campus, but the findings have never been made public and facilities have had minimal upgrades over the past decade.
The prospect of moving the AIS to Brisbane was first floated in 2021 but was shot down by Australian Sports Commission officials because of the cost involved.
Now the idea is being revived, with the fact several key Labor figures are from Queensland adding weight to the push.
Barr did not expand on who was behind an AIS to Queensland campaign, or say if it was gathering any momentum.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers and Sport Minister Anika Wells are from Queensland, but Wells' office reiterated Perkins' commitment to Canberra when contacted on Friday.
The sports commission said it had nothing further to add to the discussion despite Barr's comments, pointing to a recent address Perkins gave in Canberra.
"With the focus on Brisbane 2032, and we've got a Commonwealth Games in Victoria in 2026, people outside of Canberra do ask the question: Is the AIS, as the federal government's marquee sports product, is it being based in Canberra an appropriate place for that to be," Perkins said at the start of June.
"Certainly from our perspective, 100 per cent yes."
The federal government is spending up to $10 million to make safety improvements to the AIS Arena after making a funding commitment during the election campaign last year.
The arena - owned by the sports commission - has been closed since 2020. It is expected to reopen in the first half of next year.
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