Blow for stadium upgrade

By Stephen Cook, Dylan Cleaver

The most expensive option for the redevelopment of Auckland's Eden Park could be vetoed by a Government-commissioned report that questions the wisdom of a $385 million revamp.

Resource consent was last week granted for the cheaper $320m stadium upgrade - and now the board will seek approval for the "full" and preferred $385m option that includes covered seating for the entire ground.

But the Ministry of Economic Development has already signalled its opposition to the more costly plan by flying in temporary-seating experts from Switzerland and leading design firm HOK London. A mix of permanent and temporary seating would cut costs dramatically. That, however, would be a nightmare for both Rugby New Zealand 2011 Ltd, and the International Rugby Board (IRB), who expect their showpiece game to be played at a world-class stadium with the vast majority, if not all, of seats covered.

Auckland mayor Dick Hubbard is also concerned about the potential for major embarrassment on the world stage.

"What we have to ensure is that we don't have something halfway between temporary and permanent. That would be the worst of all options," Hubbard said.

Last week the MED experts were looking at the possibility of keeping the South Stand (the old main stand) intact.

Hubbard was aware the Government had some degree of discomfort about potential cost overruns. "The Government is looking at all options because of concerns over costs locked in forever," he said.

The trust board has $160m lined up from its own coffers and grants and is hoping taxpayers and ratepayers will fund the $225m shortfall. New Zealand's bid document included two upgrade options for Eden Park to host the World Cup final - a temporary option and a 'legacy' option. The IRB made it clear they preferred the legacy option.

Hubbard said he was also concerned about the costs of meeting the 91 conditions attached to the resource consent for the $320m upgrade. Time was running out and, the longer things were left, the more expensive they would be.

North Harbour Stadium chief executive Brendon O'Connor said yesterday it was still the "exclusive back-up option" if the Eden Park revamp does not go ahead.

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