Corporate giant Vodafone has thrown its weight behind the growing push for a new waterfront stadium in central Auckland - and is prepared to put its money where its mouth is.
Undeterred by government indifference towards funding a CBD-based stadium, Vodafone New Zealand's chief executive Russell Stanners weighed in on the public debate today and supported the push to dump Eden Park as Auckland's main sports arena.
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Stanners said Vodafone had a "long and rich history" with New Zealand sport, and would "seriously consider sponsoring a new Auckland downtown stadium if it went ahead".
"We think a new stadium is an absolutely fantastic idea, and we would love to this become a reality for Auckland and the rest of New Zealand," Stanners said in a statement. "Kiwis love sport and Vodafone shares that same passion."
Vodafone has been the principal naming rights sponsor of NRL franchise the Warriors since 1999 - the longest professional naming rights sports team sponsor in New Zealand history. The telco also supports a wide range of other sports - netball, soccer, sailing and Emirates Team New Zealand. It also currently partners Super Rugby franchises the Chiefs, the Hurricanes, the Highlanders and the Crusaders.
"We've already been in talks with other individuals and organisations who are backing this stadium proposal, pledging our full support. We believe this project would enhance the vibrancy of central Auckland and New Zealand sport. We have a unique opportunity before us," Stanners said.
Vodafone's support follows Warriors owner Eric Watson's push to make the waterfront stadium a reality.
Stanners said constructing a new multi-code, multi-purpose venue on the Auckland waterfront would present New Zealand with a once and a lifetime opportunity to build a "stadium of the future" - and "one of the most technologically advanced in the world". He said there was the potential for everything in the stadium to be enabled by the smartphone, fully wireless enabled, and voice and video aware.
"We encourage as many people in the community to stand up and get behind this project, and help see it become a reality," Stanners said.
Warriors managing director Jim Doyle said the club is fully aligned with Vodafone in its support of a central city stadium.
"We're absolutely right behind Vodafone on this. Having a stadium in downtown Auckland is the only logical outcome for the city and possibly the country," he said.
"A city like Auckland deserves a downtown stadium. All public transport leads there, there are restaurants, bars and cafes and it would add to vibrancy of the city.
"A central city stadium could be shared between the Vodafone Warriors, the Blues and soccer. So we could have games there on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday and each team would pick up a lot more fans because it would be easier to get to."