New stadium a bad idea all round

By Kris Shannon

There are better ways to blow $1 billion than on a stadium that would hardly ever be filled to capacity.
Originally touted as a possibility for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, the idea of a stadium on Auckland's waterfront has gained traction again. Picture / Getty Images
Originally touted as a possibility for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, the idea of a stadium on Auckland's waterfront has gained traction again. Picture / Getty Images

No matter the question, a new stadium is never the answer.

Contemplating an attempt to earn global attention and acclaim? Scrap those pipe dreams and focus on a realistic aim. Want to eke out a few more pennies from a money-making machine? Set down those tools and settle for being a multi-billionaire.

Have an audacious plan to remedy a city's sporting quagmire? Forget about it.

In fairness, the latest proposal for a downtown stadium in Auckland is a worthier cause than a desperate city pouring money into an ill-advised Olympic bid, or a rapacious team owner blackmailing his way to a gleaming and unnecessary new arena.

But it's still an unacceptable solution to the mess in which the Super City's sporting residents are mired. Certainly not at a cost of more than $1 billion, a figure touted yesterday by Sport and Recreation Minister Jonathan Coleman.

A waterfront stadium is a wonderful idea in theory but both myopic and misguided in practice, which is generally the case whenever new stadiums are touted as holding all the answers to sporting problems.

Who, to start, will fill it? Cricket's out of the question, except for a World Cup semifinal every 20 years or so. The Blues never pack Eden Park and the same can certainly be said of the Warriors at Mt Smart.

And for any thinking those teams' relatively inaccessible locales prevent fans from flooding through the gates, will the city be any better?

As the latest bus brouhaha this week showed, it's tricky enough for Aucklanders to get to work, let alone an event with 50,000 of their closest friends.

Which leaves big All Blacks tests and concerts from the world's biggest stars - two or three occasions, at most, on any given year.

That's hardly a revenue-generator, and discount the idea the stadium could repay a portion of its exorbitant price through other means. A 2008 review by The Economist found 20 years of new stadiums in the United States arrived with no "increased jobs, incomes or tax revenues".

New arenas become white elephants more regularly than they revitalise surrounding areas. Look at what Brazil endured since the 2014 World Cup - with one magnificent edifice constructed for that tournament now enjoying a second life as a bus depot - or think about what a nation with a plummeting economy will endure once this year's Olympic party is over.

Brazil's plight is the rule rather than the exception. The cost of hosting the Olympics was enough for Boston to revolt after the US Olympic Committee nominated the city for its 2024 bid, while the IOC struggled to offload the 2022 Winter Olympics after Sochi became a ghost town following the 2014 Games.

Existing and adequate arenas are often demolished for the new and shiny, a practice repeated ad nauseam in the United States, where stadiums in the four major sports suffered a 90 per cent replacement rate in the last 20 years.

Why are they supplanted? To offer incredibly superfluous features, like swimming pools overlooking the field or fish tanks surrounding the outfield fence.

Just this week, the Washington Redskins diverted attention from their racist nickname by unveiling plans for a proposed new stadium boasting a moat for kayakers. Seriously. A moat.

Now, sadly, none of these features is on offer in Auckland, but the point remains. There are more important things to throw money at: fixing congestion issues crippling the city, amending the country's appalling rate of child poverty, finding a new flag that doesn't appear designed by someone with a rudimentary knowledge of Microsoft Paint.

If a new stadium is the answer, maybe it's time to rethink the question.

- NZ Herald

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