I don't often post stories to social media. But I was surprised when I re-posted a Sydney article about the over-supply of over-capacity stadiums in Australia, to get 1956 views - maybe because I called out our self-proclaimed national stadium, Eden Park.
At more than 30,000 empty seats per main-field event, Eden Park is an over-capacity stadium.
• Eden Park wants public backing to host six concerts a year
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Its owner, Eden Park Trust Board, has lost $18.3 million (including depreciation) over three years and cannot afford to pay its way.
Every city needs civic amenities. Auckland ratepayers support the zoo, art gallery, Mt Smart, Aotea Centre and others, for the benefit of all.
You might think Eden Park is in the same category. But it is owned by a private trust for the financial benefit of Auckland rugby and Auckland cricket. Nevertheless, last year the trust hooked $63 million out of ratepayers. And before it dived into the public purse it is not clear if they first sought funds from the beneficiary owners (ARU's annual report records $10m in cash reserves) or sold any of its many residential properties.
The trust has more than 340 non-event days a year on the main field. It now appears to be spending big on seeking resource consents to host up to six concerts a year. This will mean it will compete with ratepayer-owned facilities for the same events and revenue.
Auckland already enjoys an impressive concert schedule in council venues. In recent summers, fans have enjoyed Adele, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Ed Sheeran, Foo Fighters, Taylor Swift, U2 and Six60. Spark Arena regularly hosts some of the world's leading artists. Promoters know Auckland is open for business - and they bring it. It is unlikely that allowing concerts in Sandringham will bring additional events and value to Auckland. Instead, it would be more likely to displace concerts from council venues or decrease ratepayer concert revenue as promoters leverage competition between venues.
This is ratepayer-earned revenue that supports community facilities provided at no or low cost to users. There is no evidence concerts would make the trust profitable. How many concerts are assumed, at what return?
To break even over three years, it seems the trust would need 18 concerts at $1m profit per concert. Risky bet. I wouldn't put my money on it (although as a ratepayer I am). Last week the trust informed the council it has already spent about $600,000 on resource consents for concerts and it expects to spend another $300,000.
The elephant in the city of stadiums is that the trust operates a flawed business model.
The noise it makes about concerts (and stadium golf and zip lining, etc.) is a side show. It is a matter of when, not if, the trust will put its hand out for ratepayer funds again.
Ratepayers have given the trust $63m. Yet the trust blames residents for its financial losses (no concerts), wants to secure concerts Auckland is already getting, dragging revenue off ratepayer facilities, with no evidence that the trust will become profitable.
There is something wrong with this picture.
Australian taxpayers have called time on public funding of automotive institution Holden. Maybe it is time we did the same with the Eden Park Stadium Trust.
The venue is the stadium equivalent of a 1976 Holden. Great for nostalgia, not fit for purpose in the 2020s.
• Brendon O'Connor is a management consultant and group managing director at SenateSHJ. He is a past CEO of North Harbour Stadium and has provided commercial advice to many venue owners including Auckland Council and Eden Park. He is also an advisor to Regional Facilities Auckland.