ACT Government sizes up Summernats site for redevelopment

What’s the future for Summernats at Exhibition Park In Canberra?

Photographers: Chris Thorogood, Michelle Porobic

THERE has been much outrage and conjecture on social media following an article published by the Canberra Times outlining an “urban renewal planning feasibility” being conducted by the ACT Government. The study concerns a parcel of land which includes Exhibition Park In Canberra (EPIC for short), which has been the home of Street Machine Summernats for over three decades.

Naturally, there are concerns about how the outcome of this study could affect the use of the site for future Summernats events, as well as other events such as the National Folk Festival, Royal Canberra Show and Groovin The Moo. We touched base with Summernats co-owner and frontman Andy Lopez to get his take on the situation.

Street Machine: What can you tell us about the urban renewal planning feasibility being conducted by the ACT Government?

Andy Lopez: The ACT Government is looking at number of possible uses for an area of land which includes EPIC. The outcomes of that study are yet to be seen, but it may or may not mean that everything remains the same, or EPIC could be redeveloped as a multi-use venue with improvements and enhancements that benefit events like Summernats. Another option is that it could be re-zoned and knocked down for residential or other redevelopments, and there will be discussions around a new venue for festivals. Given the value of our festival and that of other festivals which currently use the venue, there’s a great desire [within the ACT Government] to make sure there’s a home for us. These events are all earners for the Territory, and we’re the biggest of the lot.

SM: What are the possible implications for Summernats?
AL: I’m very positive that with proper consultation, any changes could lead to improvements for the event, be that at EPIC or another facility. There’s always a bit of fear around this stuff, but the ACT Government is keen to have us. The fear is that urban development will lead to more restrictions around things like noise and smoke, and we want to make sure features of the program like Skid Row are there to stay. We want to keep adding cool car-related participation events such as that. I have no real concern that the government is looking to do anything that will impact us negatively.

SM: Has the ACT Government consulted with Summernats about the study?
AL: We have had very informal conversations with them about it, but I think consultation will form a big part of the process [of the feasibility study]. I have every reason to think that we and the other festivals will be involved in that process. The Government bent over backwards to accommodate things like Skid Row; they want us to succeed and I’m sure we’ll be factored in. That said, it’s a good moment for the street machining community to remind the good people in government that the event is important to them, and that the venue is iconic. Summernats has been staged at EPIC for over 30 years, and there are generational relationships to that venue. It’s the MCG of our sport – the spiritual home of our community. All of that is positive.

SM: Will Summernats 33 definitely take place at EPIC?
AL: Yes, Summernats 33 will definitely take place at EPIC, and I don’t foresee any possible changes happening for some years yet.

SM: If Summernats is forced to relocate in the long-term, will you aim to keep the event in the ACT?
AL: Priority number one is to make sure Summernats has a long-term home where the community embraces us and we can put on a show. Priority number two is for that to take place in Canberra, be it at EPIC or a variation thereof.

SM: Are there any alternative sites on your radar?
AL: Of course, we’re looking at venues. We’ve been looking at alternative venues since we bought the show, and we’re constantly reassessing. We’re not in any serious discussions with any other venues, but we’re always looking at our options and there are several of those. The last thing we’ll do is let Summernats die if it can’t happen in Canberra. We’ll find an equal or better home for the event, and if we have to do that, we’ll give everyone plenty of notice and make sure there’s plenty of time to celebrate!