Yesterday, The Roar reported on the GWS Giants’ plans to develop the Manuka Oval to the tune of $800 million.
A bit more has come to light since that initial announcement, so it is worthwhile to unpick the details of what has been described as an unsolicited bid to the ACT government to develop Manuka Oval and the surrounding precinct.
This much has been made public to date:
• The GWS Giants are leading the consortium which includes Australia’s largest privately owned developer, Grocon.
• The whole bid involves an expenditure of $100 million to upgrade Manuka Oval, including an increase in capacity to 20,000 seats, with 80 per cent being undercover, plus new hospitality, media and change room facilities.
• The quid pro quo is that the surrounding land in the Manuka Oval precinct would be re-zoned by the ACT government to enable a further $700 million investment in commercial and residential development, including serviced apartments, retail and office spaces, all of which would be privately owned and operated.
• The surrounding precinct would also be developed to allow easy pedestrian access to both Manuka and Kingston foreshore.
• A car park facility for 450 cars is also included as part of the proposal.
• There is a sympathetic nod to the existing heritage buildings in the area, including Manuka Pool and the caretaker’s cottage (which is inside the Manuka Oval). The old MCG scoreboard will be retained, but restored and moved towards the pool end of the ground.
• The ground would be of a standard to host international Test cricket games and would be of AFL standard.
At this stage it is nothing more than a proposal to the ACT government, but for a precinct that is already recognised by the state government as being in need of investment and renewal.
Part of the Manuka Oval precinct includes an allotment which once contained the local RSL club (it burned down a few years ago). The development would definitely use this space, one of the parcels of land that would probably require re-zoning.
From the interviews I heard with the Giants chairman Tony Shepherd, the clear intention is that the $800 million investment would be privately financed.
For those not familiar with Manuka, it is one of the prime residential/commercial zones in Canberra, barely a kilometre away from Parliament House with some of the finest cafes, bars and restaurants in the city.
So the attraction for developers is obvious, and this helps explain the willingness for a private developer to sink $100 million into Manuka Oval in exchange for the opportunity to develop some prime residential, office and retail space.
The main attraction for the people of Canberra, apart from receiving a 20,000 seat sports facility at zero cost, is the opportunity to attract top level cricket to the city, including the hosting of a future Big Bash League team should it expand.
From the Giants’ perspective, who incredibly are the prime contractor in this bid, it signals a clear long-term commitment to Canberra as its second home.
The bid appears to have been received with no shortage of enthusiasm from the ACT chief minister Andrew Barr, who originally brokered the 10-year deal to have the Giants play four games in Canberra each year.
We’re all used to seeing the AFL partner with local and state government to deliver top notch sporting facilities wherever AFL games are played, but the curious aspect about this deal is that it appears to be the Giants on its own leading this consortium.
The obvious question for all Australian sports fans is how did the AFL’s newest and smallest club, being also one of the very smallest football clubs of any description in Australia, manage to get Grocon on board to jointly propose this $800 million project, effectively handing the Giants a modern stadium at which it will only play four games per annum?