Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Stadium debate: Is it time to build downtown?

A council leader has put up his hand to work on a multi-code downtown stadium after the idea won overwhelming public support yesterday.

Auckland Council's regional facilities boss Chris Brooks, who took charge of the city's troubled stadium strategy last year, said RFA is happy to begin the process of considering the feasibility for a new stadium, if asked.

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He said at this stage, the stadium is an idea suggested by sporting codes to RFA and has not been considered by council.

A story in today's Herald about a city stadium being back on the table drew overwhelming support in a snap unscientific survey.

More than 10,000 votes were cast in an online survey, with 83 per cent favouring a CBD stadium.

READ MORE: This stadium has to happen

Political leaders liked the idea of a new stadium in the city, a decade after the city's elected figures and the rugby establishment opposed the waterfront stadium.

Prime Minister John Key said a waterfront stadium in Auckland was a good idea but doubted whether it will get off the ground.

Mr Key said it was a shame the stadium was not done ahead of the 2011 Rugby World Cup, saying the probability of a new waterfront venue was low because of the investment in Eden Park.

There was also no major event to justify its construction, he said.

Mr Key would not comment on whether taxpayer funding could be used for a new stadium, saying it was a new proposal which had not been raised with him until yesterday.

Former Rugby World Cup Minister Trevor Mallard also believed a new football stadium in downtown Auckland was unlikely to happen.

The Blues and Warriors would have to a share a new football stadium but it would also need a very big event to make it work, he said.

Mayoral candidate and Labour MP Phil Goff said almost everyone agreed that the decision by councils and the rugby establishment to reject the waterfront stadium was short-sighted and wrong. He supported a new downtown stadium in the future.

He said $250 million was sunk into upgrading Eden Park, leaving Auckland with a venue that could not pay its own way, restricted to the number of events it can hold and requiring considerable expenditure in 10 to 20 years.

Vic Crone, another mayoral candidate, said a waterfront stadium was not a priority, but should be part of a robust conversation about what the waterfront with more available land could be used for.

Mr Brooks said when he took charge of the stadium strategy last year the clear message from stakeholders was to look at having a rectangular stadium that can do rugby, league, football and concerts.

"A number of stakeholders, especially the sporting codes, suggested we need to consider whether a centrally located 'national' stadium would be feasible as a long-term replacement for some of the ageing stadia facilities, such as Mt Smart. That conversation, of course, also needs to include Eden Park," Mr Brooks said.

He said RFA had implemented short-term measures, such as extending the Warriors contract at Mt Smart to 2028, and beginning detailed planning on medium term initiatives, such as Colin Dale Park as a potential site for speedway and proposed upgrades at Western Springs and QBE Stadium at Albany.

"Scoping, planning and developing a new stadium would be a long-term proposition and one that council would need to be closely engaged in along with other stakeholders, notably the Eden Park Trust Board, and the Auckland public," he said.

Mr Brooks said he hadn't looked closely at central city options or costs but he was aware of support for one close to transport links.

Warriors chief executive Jim Doyle yesterday repeated his vision for sport in the city as the push for a multi-code, multi-purpose downtown hub gathered steam.

He thought a stadium with a capacity between 30,000 to 40,000 would be ideal and would cost somewhere around $600 million and take about four years to construct.

That could be funded through appeals to the government and the sale of Eden Park and Mt Smart, said Mr Doyle, who was sure downtown retailers would wear a rates increase if 60,000 people were going past their shops each weekend.

"If Auckland had a smaller stadium and was sold out regularly, that is a sensible supply and demand model," he said. "I think it would be a fantastic outcome for Auckland and all sporting codes and events."

Eden Park Trust Board chairman Doug McKay said he was unaware of talk about a new stadium.

The waterfront stadium would have required 2000 piles driven into the seabed through Captain Cook and Marsden wharves, laying the foundation for the stadium reaching across to half of the western edge of the Bledisloe container terminal.

No firm costs were ever put on the waterfront stadium. Government officials placed the cost at between $600 million and $700 million.

The Eden Park development committee claimed it would cost $612 million-$767 million, plus land and relocation costs up to $150 million.

- NZ Herald

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