Chief Minister Andrew Barr calls on ACT’s federal election candidates to commit to upgrading, reopening AIS Arena | The Canberra Times

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Chief Minister Andrew Barr has called on candidates standing for the ACT in the upcoming federal election to commit to reopening the AIS Arena. The future of Canberra’s only large indoor venue should be a local federal election issue and a change of government would allow movement on the problem, he said. Mr Barr said he had written to the Commonwealth again seeking a commitment on the future of the long-shuttered venue. The call comes after The Canberra Times revealed the ACT government is considering a $2.5 million tent with seating for 10,000 people to temporarily fix the indoor venue issue. The AIS Arena, a four-decade-old venue, would need safety upgrades to allow it to host large crowds again. It is presently used as a COVID-19 mass-vaccination hub by the ACT government. Mr Barr on Thursday told a Legislative Assembly inquiry he understood the issues related to the Commonwealth’s failure to maintain the facility. “I understand there are some issues related to fire safety, event safety, those sorts of things. A list of items that would be considered routine maintenance in a venue that is 40 years old,” Mr Barr said. The Chief Minister said the future of the site largely hinged on the Commonwealth making a decision about the future of the Australian Institute of Sport and what facilities would be maintained on the site. Mr Barr said he was not aware of any offer from the federal government to sell the arena to the ACT. “If we were to acquire the asset, it would need to be part of a broader set of arrangements for that precinct,” he said. “It would also need to include the stadium, all of the available land around it, in order to sell that for redevelopment to finance the redevelopment of the arena and the stadium.” That’s the only path forward. That could be done in partnership with the Commonwealth – that is my preference, that is the view that’s been put to the Commonwealth multiple times. “But that will require a change of government; I’m confident there will be a change of government in two months’ time, so this will allow this issue to progress.” The last major sporting fixture at the arena was the Women’s National Basketball League grand final played between the Canberra Capitals and Southside Flyers in March 2020, which attracted a crowd of more than 4400 people. The next largest indoor venue in Canberra, the National Convention Centre, has a capacity of 1700. Mr Barr has previously called on the federal government in August to complete a small upgrade of the AIS Arena to give the territory time to build a new facility. Mr Barr said the ACT government would not buy the arena but wanted the federal government to keep it running. “We’ve determined that the ACT government will not be buying AIS Arena and so what we are looking at is the Commonwealth puts in place a small investment to keep it going for several more years as we contemplate our options for a new arena,” Mr Barr said. MORE ACT POLITICS NEWS: Mr Barr said the arena had a limited life span, whether the federal government decided to sell off the facility or not. “We won’t be buying a 40-year-old arena that’s ultimately too small for our city’s future needs,” he said. Sport Australia has previously refused to detail the costs and work required to reopen the arena. Upgrades would be needed for old systems including “lighting, seating and other infrastructure”, the body said. Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:

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