CBD stadium idea gathers speed

By Michael Burgess, Bernard Orsman

Council facilities boss seeks sporting code talks as rich lister and well-known administrator add support.

• New downtown stadium back on the table
• Strong public support for the idea
• Council boss Chris Brooks says planning could begin within weeks
• Sports administrator Martin Snedden and businessman Eric Watson backing new stadium

Planning for a new Auckland downtown stadium could begin in the next month.

Chris Brooks, the council boss overseeing the city's stadium strategy, wants to bring together the sporting codes and people with the right skills to consider the feasibility of a new stadium.


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He said the process would require market research on the sort of stadium needed, public and private funding models, and planning how it could be done.

"This is something we should get moving in the next month or so," said Mr Brooks, chief executive of Regional Facilities Auckland.

Last week, the Herald revealed that a new downtown stadium was back on the table, a decade after the city's politicians and rugby establishment said no to a stadium on the waterfront.

An unscientific Herald online poll of more than 16,000 readers found 82 per cent favoured a CBD stadium.

Warriors owner Eric Watson yesterday called on Aucklanders - the media, tertiary institutions, business and communities - to support a new downtown stadium and make it a reality. The rich-lister pledged to invest in a new stadium.

"It's important to have good people behind the concept of a downtown stadium and Warriors CEO Jim Doyle, Regional Facilities CEO Chris Brooks and mayoral candidate Phil Goff have indicated strongly that they are," Mr Watson wrote in a Herald on Sunday column.

Mr Brooks said he did not know Mr Watson but does know Mr Doyle, who has been pushing for a multi-code, multi-purpose stadium with a capacity of 30,000 to 40,000 people, which he believed would cost about $600 million and take about four years to build.

Mr Goff said it makes sense to start thinking about options now rather than leaving it too late, as happened in 2006.

The downtown stadium has received another boost after prominent sports administrator Martin Snedden backed the concept - despite his long-standing ties with Eden Park.

Mr Snedden said a multi-purpose stadium on the waterfront could revitalise the city, as long as it was planned and designed with the right amount of due diligence. He believes a mid-sized arena, with a capacity between 25,000-30,000, would be the best option for the Queen City.

"A downtown stadium needs to be the right size. There is no point going for a capacity of 50,000 or something - we already have one of those."

"The reality is in our market place it is very, very hard to draw crowds above 30,000. The All Blacks do it a couple of times a year, cricket did it for the Cricket World Cup but otherwise it doesn't and we manage it for the [NRL] Nines on a one-off basis.

"It's hard to see how anything larger than that could be made to work financially."

Snedden was New Zealand Cricket chief executive between 2001-2007, then spent the next four years organising and delivering the 2011 Rugby World Cup, with the showpiece games at the Sandringham venue.

At the time he backed the Eden Park redevelopment.

"It was the safer option," said Snedden. "I could always see the potential in the downtown idea but at the time the proposal was really light on certainty and detail ... even down to getting the land that was necessary."

But now he admits Eden Park faces an uncertain future, mentioning that commercial development of the number two ground could be the only way to make the stadium viable into the future.

- NZ Herald

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