AIS director Peter Conde says the organisation must take "significant and necessary change" to be a world leader, admitting officials could sell under-utilised and costly campus land at Bruce to fund a major overhaul.
Conde detailed the areas the institute must focus on to reinvent its purpose as part of a wide-ranging article about how to make the facility world class again.
Staff at the institute are bracing for change and job cuts, with more than 40 positions expected to be either be made redundant or reallocated as part of a shift in focus.
The changes will be linked to the delayed National Sport Plan, which is hoped will be finalised in the coming weeks. The plan is also expected to be the trigger for the Australian Sports Commission to sell some of its assets, including Canberra Stadium.
Conde said the AIS must concentrate on a united high-performance system, efficient and effective investment, supporting sport with technology innovation, athlete wellbeing and revitalising the AIS.
"The AIS has been revolutionary for Australian sport over 37 years, and it can be again," Conde wrote. "But to fulfil that world-class leadership role it cannot return to what it used to be.
The AIS is undertaking significant and necessary change to position Australian high performance sport for the next 20 years. To succeed, we must be progressive and not default to what may have worked 20 years ago."
There is growing angst the AIS about the major changes, which are expected to be implemented when the details of the National Sport Plan are revealed.
The sports commission – a federal government agency – owns Canberra Stadium and a 64 hectare parcel of land at Bruce. The ACT government pays $350,000 per year to rent the stadium for NRL and Super Rugby matches.
It is expected the sports commission will sell Canberra Stadium and could consider selling the AIS Arena and one of its two pools.
Conde said the proceeds of the sale would be reinvested in the Bruce campus, but facilities would be minimised to reduce the land footprint.
"There is under-utilised land at the AIS campus, which is costly to maintain. There is the potential to free capital, but the purpose would be to reinvest in facilities that are fit-for-purpose, world-class and provide a compelling package for sports and athletes," Conde said.
"This is a major undertaking and will require negotiation over time. Simultaneously, the AIS role must be nationally inclusive and not solely focused on its Canberra campus. Australias high performance workforce must be agile and mobile to deliver performance outcomes."
There is a renewed push in Canberra to build a stadium in Civic to help lure Canberra Raiders and ACT Brumbies back to the stands.
However, it's unlikely the push will develop until the ACT government has a clearer understanding of the future of Canberra Stadium.
The AIS is committed to a future in Canberra, but its presence in the capital is expected to be significantly smaller than when the institute opened in 1981.
Sports science jobs will be shifted from the AIS campus to individual sports, with Conde declaring: "The AIS was created to lead, not to follow or duplicate.
"We must search for what can make the AIS unique and again give Australian sport its competitive edge."
Conde also defended the Winning Edge program, which was implemented after the Olympic Games in 2012. The commission and institute have stopped using the Winning Edge brand, but are keeping some of its strategies.
"But the strategy is not to blame for a plateau in Australias international performance. Declining trends in investment and international performance pre-dated Winning Edge. In terms of Olympic cycles, the decline in performance began after the 2004 Athens Olympics," Conde said.
Chris Dutton is a sports reporter at The Canberra Times.
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