Our dreams came true on that great sound 14,000 kilometres away five days ago.

The Moet has been emptied, the Louis Vuitton bags hurled, the winners' grins captured for posterity and, come Thursday, the America's Cup and the team who won it will be welcomed home with a celebration on land and sea.

And then?

A helluva lot of planning.

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The 36th America's Cup is almost certain to take place in Auckland in 2021 - the city's nickname might best grow to be the City of Sails and Opportunities.

A giant red sock sculpture, a park extending into the harbour, finally farewelling the Ports of Auckland and opening those red gates, transport, transport and more, better transport, are all being dreamed up.

What the extent of those opportunities will be is open to debate, but for many, thoughts have already turned to what the future holds for the Cup and the city that will host it.

Is the next four years about making sure Auckland can simply host the Cup, or is it about ensuring the city can also capitalise on the opportunities it brings - immediate and long-term.

Will a better city come from the triumph in Bermuda?

Mitchell and Stout Architects director Julie Stout certainly hopes so. The America's Cup is a chance to "get things happening", she says.

And by "things" the chairwoman of Urban Auckland, a lobby group for the protection of the city's waterfront and broader environment, doesn't necessarily mean the giant red sock included on an artist's impression put together by her own practice for the potential redevelopment of the central Viaduct basin.

The sock - a nod to the charmed red socks worn by the late Sir Peter Blake when Team New Zealand first wrested the Auld Mug from the United States 22 years ago - is just a bit of fun.

But switching car parks for footpaths, green spaces and "real trees growing in the ground" on the eastern side of the pedestrian drawbridge is what can really make a difference.

"[It's about saying] look, this is a people place here."

Mitchell and Stout Architects created this potential park in the existing central Viaduct basin car park area. Image / Mitchell and Stout Architects
Mitchell and Stout Architects created this potential park in the existing central Viaduct basin car park area. Image / Mitchell and Stout Architects

Urban Auckland has made no secret of its desire for the Ports of Auckland to disappear from the central city, from their imported cars rolling out on to Captain Cook Wharf to the rows of shipping containers lining the easternmost borders of the port at Judges Bay - and nothing has changed, Stout says.

The future of the Auckland Council-owned port, which occupies 77 hectares of prime waterfront land, has been a pressure point between those who see it as a barrier to the city's connection with its harbour and the Port Future Study, which found moving it to a new "super port" in Manukau Harbour or the Firth of Thames would come with a price tag of up to $5.5b.

However, the study also found a new site was needed, and Auckland mayor Phil Goff has pledged to address the port's long-term future this term.

Stout knows the Cup will turn up the heat up on the long-term future of the city's waterfront, and that's a good thing.

"Over the next 50 to 100 years these events are going to happen more and more ... where are the next pieces of the puzzle going to be filled in?"

It's not like we haven't been here before.

Large-scale events such as the Rugby World Cup in 2011 have proven a catalyst and opportunity to create big infrastructure projects, such as the $240m upgrade of Eden Park.

Captain Cook Wharf is currently used by Ports of Auckland for off-loading imported cars, but this is how it would look if Graham Wall and his family had their way. Image / Luke Leuschke
Captain Cook Wharf is currently used by Ports of Auckland for off-loading imported cars, but this is how it would look if Graham Wall and his family had their way. Image / Luke Leuschke

The Whitbread round the world yacht race in the early 90s sparked the then-Auckland Harbour Board's first development of the Viaduct, which until then was dominated by fishing boats rather than fun-seekers.

By late in the decade the board had sold the area to a group of private investors, Viaduct Harbour Holdings, prompting the most dramatic developments - apartments, hotels, bars and restaurants - and altering the whole face of the area.

Change is ever-present.

In the Viaduct, where crowds gathered en masse during the 2000 and 2003 Cup defences and again during the Rugby World Cup, celebrity chef Simon Gault is opening a new restaurant, Giraffe, and Ponsonby's Mea Culpa is planning a rooftop cocktail bar.

The Wynyard Quarter area is already undergoing massive changes as part of a billion-dollar urban regeneration project that already includes the new ASB Waterfront Theatre, the $200m Park Hyatt, under construction, and hundreds of new apartments due to be completed next year.

Build Media creative director Gareth Ross dreams of Aucklanders looking out to the Waitemata Harbour from a Captain Cook Wharf free of imported cars.

The finger wharf could either host cup syndicates or complement the existing social hubs at neighbouring Queens Wharf, home of Shed 10 and The Cloud, or at the Viaduct, 500m to the west.

"We've got to use this an opportunity to improve our waterfront area."

Yes, we have The Cloud rippling down the wharf, but it feels temporary, he says.

"It doesn't feel like a destination. It would be lovely to see lawn or grass down there and steps down to the water. That should be where we put our focus.

"It should be the jewel of our city, but it's not quite there."

Captain Cook Wharf, as seen from ground level, in the Luke Leuschke drawing based on the vision of real estate boss Graham Wall and his sons. Image / Supplied
Captain Cook Wharf, as seen from ground level, in the Luke Leuschke drawing based on the vision of real estate boss Graham Wall and his sons. Image / Supplied

When the challengers - with their vast crews and armies of supporters - roll into town there will certainly be money to be made.

Leading businessman Sir Ralph Norris told the Herald this week the economic bonanza for New Zealand could top $1b and New Zealand Marine Industry Association chief executive Peter Busfield said $500m would be injected into their industry.

The last time New Zealand hosted the Cup, in 2003, more than $500m was pumped back into the economy.

Degree Gastrobar owner John Hellebrekers remembers both the 2000 and 2003 events.

Business was humming, with increased demand from two years out as syndicate staff and families began arriving.

He's looking forward to a repeat, not only in the increased patronage, but also in the joy the event brought - especially if Team New Zealand repeats its successful 2000 defence.

"It was just this sea of people partying through the bars on the wharf. It was the first time I'd ever seen us, as a nation, be so emotional in how we partied."

Down the road on Quay St, a blood red wrought iron fence stands in the way of the dreams of Graham Wall Real Estate owner Graham Wall.

He just wants to feel the grass under his feet as he looks out into the Waitemata Harbour.

He and his family, including son Ollie, asked architect friend Luke Leuschke for a concept drawing to be produced showing a park which could be sited on Queens or Captain Cook wharf - and for the park, which would also include steps to the water, to be named for Team New Zealand's principal Matteo DeNora.

Team New Zealand fans celebrate at the RNZYS headquarters at Westhaven during the final America's Cup. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Team New Zealand fans celebrate at the RNZYS headquarters at Westhaven during the final America's Cup. Photo / Jason Oxenham

"This is more about taking away than adding. It would be more stunning than any structure could ever be and at next to no cost. The park could be used by all Aucklanders, all the time and have viewing screens and be a fan zone for the Cup itself."

The image being beamed across the world would be "our amazing blue harbour, beautiful green grass, trees and our spectacular city", Ollie Wall says.

"This image represents our country exactly the way it should be."

Transurban director Nick Rae, an urban designer, also wants a waterfront public viewing area and has proposed Ports of Auckland share a portion of their land in the Mechanics Bay area, assuming racing takes place within sight.

Grandstands could be built - either on land or on floating pontoons.

"It needs to be as open to as many people as possible. I think there's a real opportunity to bring the energy and excitement ... to make the city buzz."

Like most of those spoken to, Rae isn't sure where the syndicate compounds should be based. Much will depend on the type of boats used at the next Cup.

Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton has hinted that foiling boats are likely to be retained, but they could become mono-hulls instead of catamarans.

The Herald revealed last week a proposal to dust off plans for a 60-80m, $80m to $100m Halsey Wharf extension west of the Viaduct Harbour to accommodate the compounds.

Before 2013's heartbreak in San Francisco, the wharf extension and the northern end of Wynyard Quarter were shaping up as the preferred waterfront locations.

But difficulties with ending leases and moving the large storage tanks on the headland is seen as a huge barrier.

There's also the question of connecting various sites.

Rae suggests light rail along the waterfront and beyond to St Heliers, and Boffa Miskell partner and landscape architect Rachel de Lambert also has light rail on her mind - but she wants it to go all the way to the airport.

It's not a pie in the sky idea, it's just the pie isn't quite ready to leave the oven yet, according to the Government.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges confirmed in March that Auckland will get light rail between the CBD and the airport, but not for 30 years.

De Lambert isn't deterred - she also wants the City Rail Link, due for completion in 2023/24, open before the Cup is defended - and she has a downtown tram in her targets as well.

A bridge capable of carrying trams should replace the pedestrian bridge at the central Viaduct Basin, with charter boats moved to another area so the drawbridge does not need to be raised as frequently.

So far, so fantastic. Waterfront parks where you can feel the grass between your toes and the sea breeze on your face. Pedestrian friendly areas. Trams between downtown and Wynyard Quarter, and light rail to the airport. A completed City Rail Link!

But is any of this actually possible?

This the reality part.

Property developer Nigel McKenna, the man behind the master plan for Viaduct Harbour Holdings in the 90s, sounds a warning for local and central Government to butt out of decisions about hospitality and entertainment.

Private enterprise should build the bases and existing restaurants and bar owners do the entertaining.

"Council's priorities should remain at a macro level - providing infrastructure, accelerating housing development and, above all, improving transport ... we don't need grand plans, white elephants or lavish commitments that incense the rate-paying public."

Goff, who this week said the private sector should pay much of the cost for hosting the Cup, says he is keeping his feet firmly on the ground.

Other pressures, in particular housing and transport, have to be addressed before any event can be a success.

The port could not be moved in less than a decade, a completed City Rail Link by 2021 is a big ask, and light rail to the airport in the same timeframe is "really tough".

But with the CBD and airport areas the fastest growing in the city, Goff is keeping an open mind about achieving light rail within four years.

"[It's an] outside chance. Let's have a look at what we can do."

Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton holds the Cup aloft in Bermuda. He hasn't yet confirmed what form the defence will take. Photo / Supplied
Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton holds the Cup aloft in Bermuda. He hasn't yet confirmed what form the defence will take. Photo / Supplied

He loves the idea of trams, but says they must have a viable business case before any tracks are laid.

Queens Wharf is also open for development, with The Cloud coming to the end of its life.

Goff has also turned his focus to Wynyard Quarter and its potential to become a "great headland park".

He understands it could cost $20m to pay out existing leases, and tenants may need to be accommodated elsewhere.

"[The leases] are a big problem, but because of the potential of that area, it's something we should explore ... if we could bring that area into council control earlier, that would be fantastic.

"If you don't look at it, you never know."

With New Zealand hosting the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation meeting in 2021, it iscertainly time for the city to shine, he says.

"I think what's going to happen in 2021 does present us with the opportunity to be transformational for our city."

Auckland gets big things done when it has something solid to work towards, de Lambert says.

"Now's the time to dream."‚Äč

Dreams are as free as the wind that blew Aotearoa over the finish line on Tuesday.

But Auckland councillor Chris Darby, chairman of the council's planning committee, can do more than dream. He can help make them happen.

Top of his wish list is light rail from Wynyard Quarter to at least the southern end of Dominion Rd by 2021.

Our sailors have inspired him.

"Let's be as imaginative and inventive as they have shown is possible. It's time for Auckland to fly on its foils too."