Rugby league's former home at Carlaw Park has bolted into contention for the 2011 Rugby World Cup with the news that a group of international companies are keen to help bankroll a $400 million stadium.
Government officials are to hold talks on Monday with some of the companies, who believe a 60,000-seat stadium at Carlaw Park is a better proposition than the $385 million upgrade of Eden Park, with its hand out for $225 million of taxpayer and ratepayer funding.
A spokeswoman for Sports Minister Trevor Mallard said he was unaware of the meeting and had no comment on whether the Government would consider Carlaw Park at this late stage. The site has previously been dismissed as too small and not capable of handling large crowds.
Officials from the Ministry of Economic Development were due to report to the Cabinet by Wednesday on funding, design and governance issues for Eden Park after the Cabinet decided on November 27 to ditch a waterfront stadium and go with Eden Park as the main venue for the cup. The Herald understands they will now not report back until the New Year.
Opus International is one of three international companies behind Carlaw Park in a deal being brokered by Auckland-based Multinational Property Infrastructure.
MPI director Lloyd Parrant would not name the other two companies but said they were confident a multi-purpose Carlaw Park could be made to work with $200 million of private money and $200 million of public money.
"We are not naive to say we will land this but if you don't have a shot, you can only talk about it. We think there is a lot of common sense to it," Mr Parrant said.
Drawings by Opus show the stadium sitting in the natural amphitheatre of Carlaw Park with a strong South Pacific flavour, a large public plaza fronting Stanley St and a pedestrian link back to the Domain. There are plans to build a railway station into the stadium, which is alongside the Grafton Gully motorway and a short walk to downtown Auckland.
One of the main backers for Carlaw Park, Action Hobson city councillor Richard Simpson, has also suggested a direct link to the city by opening up the tunnels under Albert Park for a moving footpath, known as a travelator.
His Action Hobson colleague, Christine Caughey, last night said of all the sites considered for a stadium, Carlaw Park was the best and would do the most to boost Auckland's economic development. It would reconnect the city with the Domain, with the ASB Tennis Centre, the Auckland Bowling Club and the Vector Arena.
"It hasn't got a lot of residents around and everyone in the community thinks it's a wonderful idea," she said.
Friends of the Domain, Parnell Community Committee and Parnell Mainstreet supported the project, which would require an extra 1ha of Domain "scrub" land.
Ms Caughey said it was crazy to invest $385 million into a "lemon" like Eden Park.
Willis Bond, the investment company planning to redevelop the 2.9ha Carlaw Park site into offices, a hotel, carparks and a retirement village, is open to the stadium idea.
Director Greg Reidy said Willis Bond originally intended redeveloping Carlaw Park into a world-class stadium and new home for the Warriors, but that fell over when the rugby league side committed itself to Mt Smart stadium. "We always thought a stadium at Carlaw Park would be a fabulous idea."
* $200m of private money
* $200m of public money
* $160m trust board and grants
* $225m public money