Forget North Harbour Stadium. Forget Eden Park. The Warriors will remain at Mt Smart Stadium until 2028 after announcing a new agreement with Regional Facilities Auckland (RFA) today.
The new agreement replaces the existing licence which was due to conclude at the end of 2018, with some changes taking effect as soon as the 2016 season.
As reported by the Herald on Sunday in December it's a significant turnaround from earlier last year, when the Warriors fate seemed sealed and they were going to be moved from their long-time home at the end of the 2018 season potentially to North Harbour Stadium in Albany.
They were granted a stay of execution when Auckland Councillors agreed to their request in May to take another year to examine all of the options.
The Warriors are believed to be willing to contribute to the cost of upgrading the Penrose venue to bring it up to standard with other NRL club venues in Australia.
Regional Facilities Auckland Chief Executive Chris Brooks said his organisation had been involved in discussions with the Warriors and other sport and entertainment venue users and that had driven a refresh of some elements of the strategy.
"We have been engaging widely with stakeholders and those connected with our stadium facilities and listening to their needs. We have always said this process may lead us to re-consider aspects of the strategy.
"We have also widened our focus to include consideration of the longer-term needs of sporting codes, other users, and the Auckland public and how we can best utilise existing facilities as well as any enhancements that will add value. That long-term outlook and the feedback from stakeholders is helping us shape a view on what Auckland needs now and over the longer term."
Mt Smart Stadium will continue to be used as a premier outdoor concert venue for Auckland.
Brooks said other elements of the Stadiums Strategy are being worked on and discussed with relevant stakeholders.
One other change signalled as part of the process is a short-term extension for speedway to remain at Western Springs until early 2019 while work on an alternative speedway location is progressed.
The RFA's stadium strategy has had many incarnations since it was first developed in 2012. The original plan called for the Warriors to move to Eden Park, which was always going to be an ambitious idea. It remains an unpopular venue among league fans due to the distance from the action and is bereft of atmosphere unless it is more than half full. It is also, by far, the most expensive stadium to rent in the country and has cumbersome resource management act restrictions.
A subsequent favoured option called for QBE Stadium, which has major access issues and is located far from the league heartlands in West and South Auckland, to become the Warriors home, including the (surely fanciful) idea of a retractable roof at a cost of just $12 million.
The new agreement seems to make the most sense. Retain Mt Smart for the medium-term future, while investigating the long-term possibility of a rectangular stadium in central Auckland.
- Additional reporting by Michael Burgess.