Cricket: Spectators keen to see tests at Victoria Park

By David Leggat, Dylan Cleaver

A visualisation for the proposal to turn Victoria Park in Downtown Auckland into a cricket test venue. Photo / supplied.
A visualisation for the proposal to turn Victoria Park in Downtown Auckland into a cricket test venue. Photo / supplied.

Auckland Cricket say Eden Park is the venue, not the park near the city.

Auckland Cricket have dug their heels in over Eden Park, but the spokesman for a lobby to have test cricket at Victoria Park said the association's stance was largely irrelevant.

Mark Cameron, Auckland Cricket chief executive, has defended the use of Eden Park No 1 for a test venue against England next year, but he is swimming against a springtide of public opinion.

Readers were asked to give their thoughts on revamping Victoria Park to enable it to host test cricket and the response was overwhelmingly in favour.

Of the more than 160 respondents who wrote into the Herald, 132 were in favour, while another 12 liked the idea in principle but had caveats. Twenty-one readers were opposed to the idea. Those figures correlate with an online poll that, at 2pm yesterday, had 85 per cent of more than 2000 respondents in favour of a move to Victoria Park.

"We enjoy being at Eden Park and would like to remain there," Cameron said.

That is just fine, according to Jeremy Wells, who is mobilising financial backing and public support for the Victoria Park option.

"Victoria Park would be used as a test venue for five or 10 days maximum a year - I doesn't need to be used for first-class cricket. Auckland Cricket can tuck themselves up in their hospice at Eden Park No 2, gathering their annual rugby superannuation."

Under statute, Auckland Cricket is guaranteed a home at Eden Park, unless they willingly move. Efforts have been made by Auckland Rugby to shift them in the past, but all the inducements have been rejected.

They are looking increasingly isolated now. Wells said he had been contacted by players who supported his vision and hated the idea of playing at Eden Park.

Player advocate Heath Mills was reluctant to be drawn into the issue but said it was no secret that "the players love playing at purpose-built, intimate cricket grounds".

"The plans for a test cricket venue at Victoria Park looked pretty impressive," said Mills, "so they [the players] would like what has been presented, but the venue for cricket in Auckland is a decision for Auckland Cricket and, no doubt, Eden Park and the city would be part of that process as well."

Cameron believes Eden Park is the right venue for cricket but he did have some admiration for the Victoria Park concept.

"I'm very appreciative of their enthusiasm and drive, and it's good to have this discussion," he said.

"In the longer term there probably will need to be a decision made, particularly around Auckland Cricket and domestic cricket, but the reality is there are stakeholders at play that are bigger than Auckland Cricket."

Chief among those is the Auckland Council. A discussion document released by Regional Facilities Auckland, an arm of Auckland Council has suggested - apparently seriously - that test cricket should move to an oval next to to North Harbour Stadium in Albany.

On this issue Cameron and Wells are united in their flat rejection of the proposal. Cameron told the Weekend Herald yesterday that it would not work, while Wells, tongue in cheek, suggested a conspiracy.

"The idea of playing test cricket in Albany must have been mooted by someone in the council who loves softball," he said.

Great venue, and not just for cricket

We asked readers if they thought it was a good idea to host test cricket at Victoria Park. We received 167 letters overwhelmingly in favour of the concept. Here are a range of the views (abridged when necessary).

Get on with it
Test cricket at Victoria Park instead of Eden Park? Is there really anyone out there that would actually prefer the tumbleweeds and morgue-like atmosphere of the latter? I thought not. So let's do it! Hang on, this is Auckland, nothing happens too fast around here, not with all the egos and agendas that get in the way of doing something relatively simple that would be a really good thing for the city and the sport of cricket. With a bit of thought, this could enhance Victoria Park's ability to host a variety of sports events and functions on a modest scale, while still retaining the feel and function of an intimate inner-city green space.
Hamish Waterhouse

Perfect location
It makes perfect sense in terms of bringing life to this area of the city, with its connections to the water, new residential development areas and the CBD. A perfect, picturesque location, with the city skyline as the backdrop, and natural amphitheatre. The accessibility from a public transport perspective makes sense and even the old kindergarten could have a supporting role to play. Ice cream and fish and chips on the embankment. Heaven!
Miles Heine

It's already taken
Totally opposed. Vic Park is a great public space where locals and office workers can go to for lunch, throw a frisbee or just relax. Test cricket will be played there once in a blue moon. Selfish! Take the bat and ball to Western Springs.
Gerry Marychurch

Fresh life needed
Brilliant. What a great idea. The Mrs and I would attend. The Eden Park revamp has killed the cricket experience.
G. & H. Jack, Waiheke Island

Support at the ready
What a magnificent concept - great for the city and superb for test cricket. Many of us own companies that would support such a venture.
Mark Finlay

Great for visitors
I don't live in Auckland but look forward to walking down to the park from my inner-city accommodation to watch a test unfold. Make it happen, Jeremy Wells.
Ian Dawson, Ohope

Get a move on
It is a great idea. I hope it happens before I am too old to enjoy it.
Dianne Clayton

Boost for Auckland
Brilliant idea. I don't love the game but plenty do and this would be great advertising for Auckland, it would certainly help the Wynyard Quarter and bring more people into the city. But stands should be removed after games to keep the park space open to the public.
Shane King

The right site
Wow! That really is a "site" for sore eyes. Go for it.
Mrs E.S. Thompson

Forget the relic
This is a brilliant initiative. We, as Aucklanders, missed a huge opportunity on the waterfront and continued to develop the relic that is Eden Park. This is our opportunity to do something right. The intimacy of a test cricket venue smack bang in the middle of the city - brilliant! And right outside a redeveloped Victoria Park Market and a growing Wynyard Quarter. This might encourage me to take my son back to test cricket - and we could catch the ferry.
Joseph Silk

Icing on the cake
When the food festival known as Taste NZ moved from the middle of Ellerslie Racecourse to Victoria Park it turned the event around and made it extremely successful. Auckland is an amazing city and cricket downtown would be the icing on the cake.
William Eriksen

Great for Wynyard
After a match people would naturally head for Wynyard Quarter. Only Auckland could let an opportunity like this go to waste. Let's make it happen!
William Bradley

More support
It's perfect - well done to those who had the foresight to think of it and good luck to them with their campaign. How do I contribute?
Peter Michel

Just like the Basin
Absolutely brilliant idea. I'm a Wellingtonian who loves tests at the Basin, but a venue like this may even drag me up to Dorkers.
Simon Greig

A few things to sort out
I'd be more than happy to see Victoria Park as a test venue, but really can't see how it could be removed from use for other sports activities; properly secured during tests; the wicket block could be adequately prepared; or players' and corporate facilities provided. If these problems could be solved Victoria Park could be great.
Pat Rossiter

What about the money?
Absolutely not! I am constantly amazed at the tunnel vision of some people. Where is the money supposed to come from?
Steve Cross

- NZ Herald

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