Where should the new stadium be located?
Rebuilding Canberra Stadium has been flagged as a priority since 2009, when now-Chief Minister Andrew Barr first floated the idea of a new stadium in Civic, which he continued supporting for many years thereafter.
“Unlike the existing underutilised drive-in/drive-out facilities, a multipurpose venue in the CBD will enable concerts, exhibitions and other recreation and wellbeing activities to thrive. It is close to all of the other attractions in the city centre. It is accessible to all and it will be supported by enhanced public transport. A new stadium anchoring one end of City Walk will bring life to an area that is currently lifeless outside business hours.”
– Andrew Barr (June 2013)
Our local sporting teams and their fans have been left out in the cold at Canberra Stadium in Bruce for too long. The old stadium’s design and facilities are aged, it is disconnected from the rest of the city and it lacks the pre- and post-event amenities needed in the surrounding area to draw a crowd. The success of Canberra’s bid for an A-League men’s soccer team means we will soon be home to three major codes needing a rectangular field, each with both men’s and women’s teams, assuaging any concerns that a new stadium would be under-utilised. Recent analysis found that of 37 high-profile music acts touring Australia, only four played in Canberra compared to 36 in Sydney and Melbourne, eight in Wollongong, six in Fremantle and five in Newcastle. Larger acts will continue to be dissuaded from including Canberra as a stop when on tour due to the existing stadium’s insufficiency in terms of both design and location.
We can renovate the existing stadium or build a new one. The Raiders and Brumbies have made clear their opposition to renovating the existing stadium, saying the construction process will significantly undermine their financial viability. If we are to build a new one, we should choose a location that sets our city up for the future.
Cities all over the world are building new stadia in and around their CBDs. This makes them more attractive for major event organisers, reinvigorating the city centre as well as bringing huge economic benefits to nearby businesses. Canberra should follow this example and construct a National Multi-Use Arena in the city. The tunnelling of Parkes Way — another key element of our plan — will expand the footprint of this site, creating more than enough space for a state-of-the-art facility while better connecting the arena with the lakefront and key public transport links. Designed specifically to host anywhere from smaller concerts for 7,000 people up to major music and sporting events with 25,000 fans in attendance, the National Arena will become the centrepiece of an entertainment precinct in the new city-to-lake corridor, supporting high-quality hospitality, retail and housing developments that re-energise Civic and help realise Canberra’s potential as a global city of the future.
As part of a recent submission to a Parliamentary Inquiry into Fostering and Promoting the Significance of Australia’s National Capital, the NRL offered three examples showing the economic impact of the kinds of major events that Canberra would be likely to secure with a new venue in Civic:
- 2023 Women’s State of Origin in Sydney: $2.3 million
- 2023 Women’s State of Origin in Townsville: $1.9 million
- 2022 All Stars Game in Sydney: $6.7 million
Bruce is a substandard location for a stadium but prime real estate for housing. When the existing stadium is decommissioned, the Commonwealth land at Bruce should be repurposed for housing to address the acute and accelerating shortage in Canberra, while ensuring the design of the new development supports a major renovation of the Australian Institute of Sport as the nation’s home for elite sport.
A revamped 5,000-seat AIS arena, the University of Canberra’s upgraded 4,000-seat indoor facility Sports Hub 2, ongoing improvements to Manuka Oval and a National Multi-Use Arena can combine to give Canberra world-leading facilities ready to host major events for all key sporting codes at all scales, from domestic competitions to international matches.