Nikki Preston

Nikki Preston is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Sports groups shun strapped events centre

The original plans for Claudelands included a sports centre. Photo / Christine Cornege
The original plans for Claudelands included a sports centre. Photo / Christine Cornege

Hamilton sporting groups desperate for a new nine-court indoor recreation centre are ruling out the Claudelands Event Centre as unsuitable at the same time as the arena struggles to meet its event targets.

Hamilton City councillor Martin Gallagher said the council needed to keep an open mind to bring new business into the underperforming event centre and questioned whether holding community sports games would help fill the hole.

A working group has been set up to try to curb the $2.6 million deficit the event centre is facing this year and a further $900,000 a year shortfall thereafter after a review found the revenue projections were too high and operational costs too low.

The move would see the council backtracking on its original plans for Claudelands which included a sports centre.

But the Waikato sporting groups who have been calling for a better facility for more than 10 years don't believe Claudelands is the answer.

Sport Waikato chief executive Matthew Cooper said Claudelands was a "Band Aid" solution and feared community sports would always take a back seat in terms of the centre's priority.

He hoped Wintec would still carry on with its plans for the indoor recreation centre at its Avalon Drive campus even without the council's $12 million commitment.

Former Waikato Basketball Association chief executive John Davey estimated Claudelands arena would fit only three courts, which would not meet the requirements of the under-serviced sporting community. He also estimated the cost of buying a suitable floor to lay on top of the concrete floor would be between $1.5 million and $2 million so was better suited for elite sports.

Waikato Hockey spokesman Declan Wyndham-Smith feared the rental fees on Claudelands would be too high for community sports. He said the need for indoor courts for hockey was high at the moment and there was nowhere suitable to play indoor hockey during winter.

"One of the things with a purpose-built stadium for recreation is you can cut your cloth accordingly and Claudelands is an expensive place so I guess their rental would have to be fairly hefty as well. The recreation centre is designed for the thousands of kiddies and mums and dads and sports people."

However, Mr Gallagher said even though the report by independent consultants Horwath HTL warned against using the facility for community sport because it would be an "expensive and compromised option", he expected the working group tasked with keeping a close watch on the centre to keep an open mind.

"The reality is we aren't going very far on the indoor recreation proposition at this point given the city's finances. We have to look at ways in which we can maximise the indoor recreation opportunity throughout the city and whether Claudelands could assist in this."

DEFECTS IN ARENA FLOOR TO BE FIXED

The flawed concrete at Claudelands Arena, which creates black spots and causes basketballs to lose bounce, needs to be fixed by this month.

The council wants to ensure the $68.4 million Claudelands Event Centre is up to scratch before elite sports take the floor.

The Breakers basketball team ruled out playing competitive matches on the court after a game against the Wollongong Hawks in September.

Claudelands spokesman Murray Jeffrey said the council had to wait for the concrete to settle before determining what else needed to be done. The council is working with the contractor to address the defects and he said the contractor would be picking up the cost.

- NZ Herald

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