Stone the Crowes: a test at the Tank Farm

The Tank Farm has been hailed as a "magical" site for inner-city test cricket by cricketing great Martin Crowe. Pictures / MOAI, Cadabra
The Tank Farm has been hailed as a "magical" site for inner-city test cricket by cricketing great Martin Crowe. Pictures / MOAI, Cadabra

First there was Victoria Park, now backers desperate to see test cricket return to Auckland at a suitable venue have come up with another option - the end of the Tank Farm.

Former test cricketer Greg Loveridge and Robt Jones Holdings colleague David Rankin have a vision to turn the land at the end of the Tank Farm into a world-class oval that would also be capable of hosting concerts and small festivals.

They have high-profile backing, too, with Martin Crowe saying he hadn't felt this excited about the prospects for cricket for a long time.

"Auckland clearly needs a new test ground," Rankin said. "It's a problem that needs to be solved.

"The fact the council is even proposing a new ground is a clear illustration the city needs a ground."

But Rankin and Loveridge believe a move to Albany, as proposed in a discussion document released last month by Regional Facilities Auckland, would be a disaster.

"The ground needs to be close to the CBD, it needs to be where your population base is," Rankin said.

Crowe, arguably New Zealand's greatest batsman, said the waterfront near the city was the perfect location.

He met up with Rankin and Loveridge, a one-test cricketer in the 1990s, and liked what he saw.

"It has real merit," he said. "With modern technology, you can have it as a public space and transform it into a test ground so quickly. But the key is the ability for people to walk down from work at lunchtime and after work. It would be magical."

Last month, television personality Jeremy Wells went public with his plan to transform the city end of Victoria Park into an oval capable of hosting test cricket, which quickly gathered high-powered support.

Wells saw the advantages being its proximity to the CBD, which would attract lunchtime and after-work crowds; its location near the new Wynyard Quarter entertainment and dining precinct; the opportunity to showcase Auckland in a positive light to potential tourists for five to 10 days a year and the relatively low cost of player facilities and grass banks.

The plan met with overwhelming public support in an online poll and feedback to this newspaper.

Rankin says the motivations for putting an oval on the Tank Farm mirrored the Victoria Park project, but it had two significant advantages: it would cause no disruption to club cricket and there were already plans to turn the Tank Farm into a park.

"The initial plan was for a simple embankment only, which should keep the cost down to that comparable with the planned headland park," Rankin said. "With further funds we would ultimately envisage a small stand which also doubles as a sound stage. This could be used for concerts, which further positions the ground as an asset for all of the city, not just for cricket lovers.

"Apart from 10 days of test cricket a year, the public would have full access to the park.

"In reality, it would immediately be one of the great cricket grounds of the world. It would be surrounded by water on three sides, with the cityscape as a background.

"It would offer a terrific advertisement for the city and country to viewers in the likes of the UK, Australia, South Africa and India."

The proposed headland park is mooted for beyond 2020 but Rankin hopes the opportunity to create a sports and city legacy might push the timing forward.

Wells said he had seen the plans and thought they looked exciting.

"Obviously I think Victoria Park is more viable, particularly in the short term, but it is great that we are getting people with ideas committed to getting test cricket back to Auckland and into the CBD," Wells said.

Auckland last hosted a test in 2006, though Eden Park with its postage-stamp straight boundaries has controversially been allocated a test between New Zealand and England next season.

Auckland Cricket is tied to Eden Park through legislation and has made it clear it will not move.

- NZ Herald

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