Wynne Gray 's Opinion

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Sports stadium would enhance waterfront upgrade

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An artists impression of the waterfront stadium proposed for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
An artists impression of the waterfront stadium proposed for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

What a great chance for Auckland to make up for the messy upgrade at Eden Park.

The opportunity to build a new purpose-built ground on the waterfront, something like an improved Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, leapt out as plans were revealed this week to redevelop the city.

A wealthy syndicate apparently involving Gina Rinehart, Australia's richest person, is behind ideas to spend $55m to build two commercial buildings on Queens Wharf in exchange for upgrading the ferry building.

The cost to ratepayers - zero. What's not to like about that as long as the plans meet certain strict criteria and enhance the city landscape.

While the city planners are chewing over the merits of the Queens Wharf precinct concepts, they should give the wealthy entrepreneurs another proposal.

How about if they underwrite a new sports stadium too, somewhere along the waterfront so it can engage with the expansion and renaissance of that entire area?

The improved transport hub, burgeoning hospitality industry and shift of large corporate companies to nearby areas are leading the charge to revive the city's waterfront.

Let's add a multifunctional stadium the city deserves without any impact on the city's coffers. The syndicate can bankroll the stadium while agreeing to certain covenants.

Rugby and cricket, if they want, can move their memorabilia to the new site and have a members lounge or function rooms to maintain their links to the ground in Mt Eden.

The upgraded stadium is an inappropriate concept in the city's suburbs and a monument to short-term thinking.

The inability of all factions to see beyond the 2011 World Cup and move, when they had the chance, from its congested suburban site to somewhere more appropriate, will go down as one of the great planning gaffes of the 21st century.

It is time to pick up and run with the commercial offshore interest, persuade them to invest even more than they originally intended in Queens Wharf.

Transtasman sport is growing all the time and Super rugby's proposal to split into divisions will further emphasise that connection while the NRL and A-league are all parts of our weekly sporting diets.

All Blacks tests, Kiwi-Kangaroo jousts, hockey or soccer internationals could all be played within the same multi-purpose ground dimensions. Concerts, automobile shows, architectural displays - the possibilities are extensive.

Public transport to that area of Auckland is already much better than access to the Eden Park district with sea, bus and train services all available. What's not to like about some robust planning and sporting ideas for the waterfront?

- NZ Herald

Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

NZ Herald senior rugby writer Wynne Gray has been covering the All Blacks for almost 25 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

Read more by Wynne Gray

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