The feasibility of a stadium for Tauranga has been quietly investigated by officials for more than a year, and now funding has been committed to take that investigation to the next level.
Some city leaders say now is not the time, but the move has support from local tourism and sporting organisations.
A "stadium establishment group" was formed in January to gather evidence for the potential for a sub-regional Western Bay of Plenty stadium, according to a Tauranga City Council report.
This comes after more than a decade of stadium pitches and plans – from developer Paul Adams' 2015 $25 million "boutique stadium" to Hori BOP's stadium-centred mayoral campaign.
Nigel Tutt, chief executive of Priority One, said it was about getting some facts and "taking the emotion out of it".
The stadium establishment group has commissioned an economic benefit study from the University of Waikato on the impact of a stadium in Tauranga, which is due in early 2019.
On Tuesday, Tauranga's council committed $20,000 towards the total estimated $85,000 cost of a needs assessment, progressing to a full feasibility study if sufficient need for the stadium is established.
Its partners – Sport New Zealand, Western Bay of Plenty District Council, Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Priority One – were also expected to contribute funding, with $10,000 designated for "community contribution".
All elected members voted for that approach bar councillors Rick Curach and Catherine Stewart.
Curach said it was a "distraction".
"I don't think we need this discussion at the moment. We should leave it for a couple of years. We've got a stadium an hour-and-a-half away."
However, Tourism Bay of Plenty's Kath Low said sport and concert events played "an enormous role" in driving visitation to the region.
"They are fantastic stimulants of tourism during the quieter months, and for that reason, a stadium would be helpful. Undertaking further feasibility assessments is an important next step."
Zane Jensen from Sport Bay of Plenty said it was early days in the investigation of a potential Tauranga stadium.
"But we welcome any findings that emerge from the needs assessment as this study will enable all parties involved to consider the facts, and will help guide next steps."
Bay of Plenty Rugby chief executive Mike Rogers said his organisation believed the timing was "absolutely right" to investigate the need for a sports and events venue that meets the future needs of the growing city.
"The Bay Oval and University of Waikato Adams High-Performance Centre are great recent examples of investing in infrastructure that provides immediate and long-term benefits for our city."
Cheer for stadium news
Tauranga rugby identity Terry Leaming – aka Hori BOP – reacted to the stadium feasibility study news by letting out a loud cheer.
"At last. After all these years of bashing my voice against the wind, some of it got heard," he said.
Leaming said he believed the best location for a stadium was the number two and three fields at Tauranga Domain, but not before finding a new home for the Otumoetai Cadets Cricket Club that played there.
He said Tauranga Domain made the most sense at it was central and close to public transport networks and downtown hospitality providers.
"A stadium will provide a civic heart for the city."
Leaming noted the success of Bay Oval and what the international cricket venue had done for Mount Maunganui and Tauranga.
"You don't have to go big straight away. I'm a ratepayer and I want my ratepayer dollar looked after ... You don't have to spend a lot of money to get a stadium up and running here."
Leaming said the city should start small and slowly build the rectangular stadium up, utilising temporary seating and green zones to begin with.