On Friday night, Canberra’s Manuka Oval will host the GWS Giants for a clash against last year’s AFL premiers the Western Bulldogs. As a result, the replay of last year’s exciting preliminary final will be held at one of the AFL’s most inadequate stadiums.
Manuka Oval is not a suitable venue to host AFL games. While the playing surface is excellent, the facilities for players and spectators are very poor.
The eastern side has no covered seating and includes a significant grassed seating area, there are limited elevated views of the ground and the toilet facilities through the venue are unsatisfactory – port-a-loos are not a good look. The food and drink concessions are in temporary vans throughout the ground.
For major sporting events, an all-seated stadium should have a significant number of seats under cover. This is what you get when attending games at Docklands Stadium, the SCG, MCG, Gabba and Adelaide Oval.
The ACT government has thrown some money at Manuka Oval over recent years but this has seen limited improvement in the facilities for spectators.
Another problem with the venue is that it is located in the picturesque and historic suburb of Manuka, where there is very limited parking and is not a natural transport hub for the city.
The ACT government has recognised that Canberra will need a new stadium in the future. This is largely due to the current state of Canberra Stadium and Manuka Oval and population projections of 400,000 by 2017 and 500,000 by 2033.
The problem at the moment is that the state government appears to be only focusing on the requirements of the Canberra Raiders, Brumbies and a future A-League team. The common suggestion is that a future stadium will be based in the city centre on the current site of the Canberra Olympic Pool and the playing area will be rectangular with a possible synthetic surface.
These last two points rule out any major AFL and cricket games being played in a future stadium. The AFL and Cricket Australia should become involved in any future stadium plans, particularly if they want quality stadiums to host their events in the country’s capital.
Canberra is a unique sporting city as its population has a wide range of sporting interests. AFL interest is just as strong as both rugby codes, largely due many people locating to the city to take up employment in the Australian public service. The strong AFL influence in the city can be traced back to the move of many federal government departments located in Melbourne to Canberra in the 1950s and ’60s.
A future stadium in Canberra should have the following features:
1. Located in the city centre, which is already a public transport hub – buses and future light rail and a range of public parking.
2. Oval shape in design to cater for all major codes – rugby league, rugby union, AFL, football and cricket.
3. Moveable sideline seating that may facilitate better viewing for rectangular sports.
4. A retractable roof to offset unpleasant winter conditions.
The ACT government should take note of what Wellington did in constructing Westpac Stadium – bowl-shape stadium with a capacity of 34,500 and located in the city centre. The venue now hosts all major sporting codes in Wellington and even hosted St Kilda AFL games.
A version of Docklands Stadium would be ideal for Canberra due to its design and location. All major codes have been played at this stadium.
The ACT government should cease looking at upgrading Canberra Stadium and Manuka Oval and start to put aside funds for a new stadium in the city.
The Western Australian government bit the bullet with its new Perth Stadium. Canberra Stadium should eventually be demolished and Manuka Oval kept as a boutique and historic ground for local or state cricket and AFL games.