JULY 7 2017 – 7:03PM
Andrew Barr, come on down for a chance to buy Canberra Stadium, the AIS Arena and the AIS pool “if the price is right”.
But a twist in the Australian Sports Commission’s asset review could see the ACT government bulldoze Canberra Stadium and sell the land to fund a venue in Civic if Chief Minister Barr can strike a deal.
In a major stadium development for the capital, Mr Barr is willing to negotiate with the commission about buying Canberra Stadium, the arena and the pool, but only for the right price.
Fairfax Media revealed last week the commission was considering a range of options in an asset review, including selling its three biggest venues to the main hirers – the government.
Plans are only in initial stages, but Mr Barr has raised the idea of buying all three after the commission changed its stadium rent agreement from a peppercorn lease of $1 to $350,000 per year.
However, the new stadium would have a pricetag of $400-$500 million and buying the three AIS facilities could have a dramatic effect of the capital’s sporting landscape.
The government said it would consider knocking down the home of the ACT Brumbies and Canberra Raiders and sell the land to a developer before using to the revenue to fund a new venue in the city.
The Canberra Stadium land could be sold develop apartments or housing and, given its proximity to the city and Belconnen, could generate significant revenue for the government.
Alternatively, it could choose a major Canberra Stadium overhaul to rebuild stands and facilities, including the surrounding precinct to create a better atmosphere, and scrap its Civic venue plans.
Mr Barr said any construction would be unlikely to start until the government had paid the bills of the Mr Fluffy loose-fill asbestos clean up.
“If [the sports commission] determine they don’t want that asset in the future, because it is a liability for them, then there could be, if the price is right, a circumstance where the ACT government could acquire that asset.
“That would broaden the range of opportunities available to us. Either for the redevelopment on that [Canberra Stadium] site for the purpose of a new stadium if you didn’t pursue the city option.
“Or as a way of meeting some of the capital costs associated with building a new stadium in the city, you could redevelop the land associated with the current stadium site.
“Canberra wouldn’t need two rectangular stadiums. The logic behind acquiring the existing one and then later disposing of it and putting the proceeds of that disposal to a new facility has some traction.
“But only if the price is right. There has to be a willing seller and the timing would also need to work with the territory.”
The sports commission will face financial pressure to maintain the venues, which are mainly used by Canberra sporting teams or concerts and functions for the capital.
Sporting bodies would not look favourably on the commission investing in the major upgrades to Canberra Stadium or the AIS Arena, especially after Australia’s worst Olympic Games medal haul since 1988 in Rio last year.
The commission scrapped a range of proposals last week to reinvent the AIS Arena, including an option to turn it into a ‘Volleydome’.
Offloading major infrastructure assets would also raise questions about the AIS’ future in Canberra.
But commission boss Kate Palmer said last week there were no plans to move the institute’s base away from the capital.
Palmer said the commission would take the “most sensible approach” when it completes its review of the high-performance campus.
It is hoped a new national sports plan will be finalised in the coming months, including the prospect of a national lottery to boost Australian sport funding.
Source : The Canberra Times