In 2014 Canberra Stadium partnered with GIO Insurance and the first naming rights agreement in the venue’s history began. The venue is now officially named GIO Stadium Canberra. Originally built for the 1977 Pacific Conference Games, the venue was then called Bruce Stadium. The original seating capacity for the stadium was 8,000 until its redevelopment for the 1985 World Cup Athletics Games, which increased capacity to 11,500 and added a new synthetic running track. In 1990 the Stadium was upgraded with corporate facilities and the running track was re-located to what is now the Australian Institute of Sport Athletics track. The Canberra Raiders moved to Bruce Stadium the same year. We speak with Liz Clarke, General Manager of GIO Stadium Canberra, who sheds light on the venues past, present and future.
“In 1997, the ACT was awarded the preliminary rounds of the Olympic Football and the stadium proceeded into its complete redevelopment. This saw the redevelopment of the East stand, the dropping of the playing surface and the addition of bowl seating which increased seating to 25,000. This then made the playing surface rectangular and finally the redevelopment also included an upgrade of the roofs on both the grandstands.” Explains Liz. Territory Venues manages GIO Stadium as well as Manuka Oval (AFL and Cricket), Exhibition Park (a multi-purpose exhibition and event centre) and Stromlo Forest Park (an outdoor recreation park focussing on cycling, running and equestrian).
GIO Stadium also features 32 corporate suites, 57 open-air boxes, 3 corporate lounges, 2 formal function rooms and 16 public concessions. GIO Stadium can accommodate up to 700 guests for a cocktail function and hold dinners for up to 380 guests. “GIO Stadium Canberra has been home to live games and events for over twenty-five years and is at the heart of Canberra’s sporting culture. Our stadium is very unique, it’s small enough for every seat to have a good view but large enough to see all of the action. GIO Stadium Canberra is a place where we celebrate our players and teams. We have a fighting spirit, teamwork, and the conviction of overcoming the impossible whilst rewarding the greatest effort.” States Liz.
The stadiums two major partners are the Aquis Brumbies and the Canberra Raiders. The Brumbies are to host 8 Super Rugby matches of their 2016 season at GIO Stadium, which includes a match in the expanded Super Rugby competition against the first ever Japanese team, the Sunwolves. The match will be held on May 28 and Liz says, “I am confident that we will get a huge crowd to see the Aquis Brumbies meet the Sunwolves and it’s sure to be an exciting game.” With their season commencing March 5th, the Canberra Raiders will also host 12 NRL matches at GIO Stadium. “I am confident this will be an exciting year for the Canberra Raiders and look forward to many fans coming to GIO Stadium to support this amazing team.” States Liz.
Over the last five years, there have been numerous upgrades throughout the stadium to keep the venue modern and efficient. These upgrades included new lighting, the reconstruction of the two entry ticketing gates, video replay board, TV system, game-day production system, turnstiles, CCTV, and cash register system. “As well, the suites, corporate clubs and formal dining areas now boast new televisions, linked via the Stadium’s IPTV network.” Advises Liz. Furthermore, the stadium renews the grass playing surface and the top 100 mm of the supporting sand profile every four to five years, to ensure the MOTZ sports surface system continues to function at its optimum.
Since 2013, most of the venue’s upgrades focussed on Canberra’s hosting of seven 2015 Asian Football Cup matches. They included upgraded facilities for the players, officials and the media as well as making the venue safe and welcoming for the spectators and the many VIPs attending the matches. “The 2015 Asian Cup was a major success for GIO Stadium and the Australian Capital Territory. The matches were entertaining and very well supported. Mr. Tran Quoc Tuan from the Asian Football Confederation Organising Committee also gave GIO Stadium the ultimate compliment by describing it as, having the best quality pitch of the entire tournament.” Says Liz. Moving forward, the venue will continue to focus on the fan experience and customer service through improvements to catering concessions, additional food outlets and pre and post-match hospitality.
“GIO Stadium works closely with our event partners and concession providers to ensure we are providing an exceptional experience to our patrons. We recognise that having effective working relationships is the key to running successful events. I believe we all strive towards the ultimate goal of having more fans come to GIO Stadium and the games.” Sates Liz. GIO Stadium also works closely with sponsors to help generate a positive commercial outcome for their brands and products. In addition, the team at GIO Stadium recognises the importance of having a strong relationship with the community and support a large number of charity groups and non-profit organisations.
GIO Stadium staff work hard to ensure the health and safety of everyone that comes through its gates. The Stadium has its own safety officer who works with the venue manager to prepare specific plans and procedures in accordance with risk and emergency management standards. “GIO Stadium has many measures and controls in place, including alarm and security systems. These have been fully integrated into the facility and our maintenance staff undertake weekly inspections.” Explains Liz. GIO Stadium also works closely with emergency services agencies and transport authorities and has security personnel for game days to ensure everyone attending an event at GIO Stadium has a fantastic experience.
GIO Stadium will continue to work closely with their partners, the Canberra Raiders and the Aquis Brumbies, to see more fans come and experience exciting, live entertainment. “Our strategy for promoting events and corporate business includes print advertising, radio and TV commercials. We also promote GIO Stadium’s functions business, which includes conferences and wedding receptions.” Says Liz.
Prior to being appointed as General Manager Territory Venues, Liz was the CEO at Exhibition Park Corporation for over four years. “My focus for 2016 is to support our partners and to see more fans experiencing the live entertainment at GIO Stadium.” States Liz. “I think a big challenge for venue operators is how we invest in new technologies such as venue Wi-Fi and mobile applications that are relevant to fans and add to their match day experience.” Advises Liz. Online presence is steadily increasing along with the demand for online marketing and social media content.