Gavel / Mysterious case of the disappearing stadium!

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WALKING through the entry gates at Melbourne Park for the tennis, it becomes obvious that major sporting venues are lifting their game when it comes to enhancing the overall sport-plus-other-entertainment fan experience.

Tim Gavel.
It’s not simply about watching live sport; it has to do with the perception that you are part of an event that cannot be replicated through the prism of television. Tennis has shown that people will go to live sport if the overall product is memorable.

So with Melbourne Park and the new Perth multi-sport facility representing the benchmark, where does that leave dated venues such as Canberra Stadium?

The proposed indoor stadium seems to be continually on the backburner. The goalposts are constantly changing while the existing facility at Bruce gets the occasional coat of paint to give the appearance of change.

At first it appeared to be all-systems-go with forecasts the Raiders and the Brumbies would be playing at the new stadium within the next five years. However, from the moment it was proposed hurdles began appearing. There were plans for the Civic Olympic Pool to be relocated to a new aquatic facility closer to Lake Burley Griffin but that disappeared into the ether.

Then financing the new stadium became an issue due to the unexpected expenditure associated with Mr Fluffy. The final nail was the assertion that the stadium wouldn’t be viable without an A-League team playing there as well.

As I have speculated earlier, the likelihood of Canberra getting an A-League side in the foreseeable future appears remote.

There is also the uncertainty over the eventual ownership of Canberra Stadium with the ACT currently leasing the facility from the Commonwealth Government. If that were to change and the ACT assumed ownership, it could result in Canberra Stadium being demolished to make way for housing. The funds could then be used to finance a new stadium.

The hurdles appear endless.

It has left many asking if there is any desire to build a new stadium at all. In the end it may transpire that a privately funded facility, incorporating a new convention centre, could eventuate.

There has been speculation that a group, independent of the government, is looking into such a proposal. Ultimately, this may be the only way the new stadium will be built. But if such a proposal is underway, those involved need to make sure they have the support of the community. The proposed redevelopment of Manuka Oval provides a recent example of an idea going off the rails through a lack of transparency, particularly in the early stages.

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Tim Gavel
Journalist and ABC sports broadcaster

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