Battle of the stadiums: Two weeks to decide

The Government said today it strongly prefers a new $500 million-plus stadium on the Auckland waterfront for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

But Sports Minister Trevor Mallard has also called on Aucklanders to give it a clear indication whether the city wants a new stadium or whether Eden Park should be upgraded.

Mr Mallard briefed journalists on stadium proposals at a 2pm press conference in an upper floor of a building overlooking the waterfront, using a special 90-second DVD which you can view here

The waterfront proposal, called Stadium New Zealand would:

* double as a cruise centre for visiting ships

* be translucent

* have tiers of retractable seats so that the pitch could be expanded to house one day internationals.

* could be partly funded through Lotteries Commission-run events in which people could win lifetime tickets to the stadium.

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The Government says it has not ruled out redeveloping Eden Park in time for the Rugby World Cup but that it strongly favours a new national stadium.

Mr Mallard said: "There is little difference between the two options in terms of cost and construction deadlines. Advice from the experts is that they both could be delivered on cost and on time.

"The Government believes that a sport stadium has the ability to contribute to the identity of Auckland and of New Zealand. A national stadium could be very much a focal point for Auckland and its landscape in the way the Sky Tower is or in fact Rangitoto.

"We believe the waterfront is the best opportunity to showcase the country and Auckland during 2011."

Auckland City mayor Dick Hubbard said he backed the waterfront stadium, describing it as a bold move, but saying "bold is gold".

Translucent

The waterfront plans have been drawn up by top architects Warren and Mahoney, who designed Wellington's Westpac Stadium. They envisage a translucent 37 metre-tall structure, similar to the Allianz Stadium bult in Munich, Germany, for this year's soccer World Cup.

The Government has been advised by a technical panel led by Ken Harris the chief executive of Wellington's port, CentrePort Wellington. They believe the stadium is feasible and can be built in time.

It will require the driving of 1900 piles on which a concrete platform will then be placed. That will cost $80 million to $100 milion. Fletcher Construction are the builders and up to 1300 workers will be needed.

Mr Mallard wants building work on the stadium underway by December 2007 and is prepared to rewrite various laws to clear the way for the development.

The preferred waterfront site is over Marsden Wharf between Captain Cook and Bledisloe wharves.

The site is across the road from the Britomart transport terminal, close to buses and ferries and a 90-second walk from the bottom of Queen St.

The Government believes that the waterfront is a better position for a stadium, because of its proximity to hotels, transport hubs and cafe areas like the Viaduct. Eden Park, on the other hand, is situated in suburban Mt Eden and is surrounded by houses.

All week, Government ministers have been giving indications they seem to favour a new 60,000-seat stadium on the waterfront. Some estimates suggest it could cost as much as $700 million.

The alternative is a $320 million upgrade of Eden Park, and the Eden Park Trust Board has an assessment from its own quantity surveyors that says a new waterfront stadium could cost more than $1 billion.

Mr Mallard wants Aucklanders and local bodies to have their say on which option they prefer within two weeks.

The Government wants to fund the development through a mix of revenue raising measures, including a levy on hotels, motels and backpackers, but also special promotions run by the Lotteries Commission. Prizes could include winning lifetime tickets to the stadium.

Yesterday Finance Minister Michael Cullen, while insisting he does not have a preference, talked up the waterfront option.

He said yesterday he had nothing against Eden Park but it had limitations.

"Because it's in the middle of the suburbs you can't do Sunday night games, you can't do concerts, you can't do a lot of other things," he said.

"So it's a very constrained ground in terms of future usages."

- NZHERALD STAFF

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