The country's largest stadium operator has booked another loss - but it squeaked into the black after a depreciation charge and its operator says it is now in a more stable financial position as it continues to push for concerts and other new events.
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The Eden Park Trust also says it could place an application to hold concerts as soon as the end of this month.
In its annual report, released this morning, the trust says it lost $6.3 million for the year to October 31, 2019 vs the $7.3m it lost in 2018.
The main reason for the loss, as with last year, was a $8.83m depreciation charge on the value of the stadium vs $9.98m the previous year.
Without the charge, the stadium was $2.94m in the black vs $2.64m in 2018.
Revenue fell to $15.9m from the prior year's $16.5m as income from sports events dropped faster than revenue from functions and new initiatives rose, but there was also a tighter rein on costs, lower depreciation costs and interest costs.
However, the report also flags possible new costs ahead, associated in part with a push by Eden Park chief executive Nick Sautner to stage up to six outdoor concerts a year.
It notes a contingent liability, estimated between $3m to $4m for a memorandum of understanding with a supplier of a video replay screen, subject to the trust gaining a certificate of compliance from the council. It says the new video screen could be integrated into a concert-enabling acoustic screen - for which it already has consent.
"If construction of the acoustic and video screen project goes ahead, there are likely to be additional costs which cannot be quantified at this time," the report says.
Earlier this year, the trust was under pressure over a $40m loan due to ASB Bank - which it could not repay - along with a $7m credit facility. Additionally, there was a $6.5m Auckland Council loan to the trust.
A testy meeting in March saw the council's Finance and Performance Committee (which comprises all councillors plus two members of the Independent Māori Statutory Board) vote 12 to 10 for a $63m bailout package.
The council agreed to consolidate the outstanding debt into a new, interest-bearing $53.5m loan facility for the trust (of which $45.3m had been drawn-down by year's end as the loan balance reduced from $48.6m).
Over objections from Mayor Phil Goff, councillors also have voted the trust a $9.8m grant, earmarked to pay for basic maintenance and renovations over the next three years.
Goff wanted the extra money extended as a loan, but pro-grant councillors saw All Black tests in the city under threat, and did not want the stadium burdened with more debt.
Under a "Going Concern" section of the report, the trust says while it "does not currently generate sufficient operating surpluses to cover its ongoing depreciation charges", the "material uncertainty" over its debt no longer applies due to its new arrangement with the council.
Eden Park boss Sautner earlier told the Herald he wanted the stadium to pay its own way, in part by staging up to six concerts a year, and moving into less traditional activities such as rooftop walks, art exhibitions and the recently-launched "Staydium Glamping".
Sautner declined to give figures on revenue from Glamping and other new initiatives but said "there has been a significant increase in non-match day revenue which can be attributed to stadium tours, Staydium Glamping and other experiences such as Haka on the Park."
He added, "Eden Park is fielding an increased number of enquiries in relation to functions and events following the interruption at SkyCity Convention Centre and the closure of Viaduct Events Centre for the America's Cup."
The annual report confirms concerts are still on the agenda.
The trust is considering making a resource consent application for permission to host concerts, thereby enabling its discretionary right to do so, as established under the Auckland Unitary Plan, it says. (Plans for concerts at the stadium have drawn a mixed response from locals, though a Herald investigation last year found many were coming on side. Concert kingpin Brent Eccles - the local rep for Australasia's largest concert promoter, Frontier Touring - saw potential for seated concerts but added his ultimate support, or not, would hinge on resource consent details such as where freight could be stored and trucks parked.)
The report says "preparations for such an application [for concerts] are well advanced. We anticipate that an application will be notified towards the end of January 2020."
Asked if that timeline still holds, Sautner said in follow-up comments to the Herald today, "Eden Park is working closely with Auckland Council and expects notification imminently."
However, it also cautions this will be the start of an extended process that will involve "a period of public consultation before the application can be heard. That hearing may be before a panel of Independent Commissioners on behalf of Auckland Council, or it may be referred directly to the Environment Court."
The aforementioned video screen project would also have to be consented and completed (along with the already-approved acoustic screen) before the non-profit Eden Park Trust could compete against council-owned Western Springs and Mt Smart for the affection of visiting rock stars.
But beyond concert ambitions and a raft of left-field initiatives, the report also reveals the self-styled national stadium went backwards in the core area of sports events.
It hosted 20 major matches in 2019 vs 23 in 2018, with total crowd numbers falling from 322,200 to 269,400, continuing a downward trend.
Sautner said the fall was due to only one All Blacks test being held at the ground during 2019 and only two cricket T20s.
The profitability (after discounting for the depreciation charge) was pleasing in a Rugby World Cup year with only one All Blacks test, the Eden Park boss said.
Two All Blacks tests are scheduled at Eden Park this year.
Chris Darby, who chairs Auckland Council's planning committee, earlier told the Herald he was not convinced that holding up to six concerts a year would be enough for Eden Park to achieve financial autonomy.
Darby was looking for more information before taking a formal position on concerts but did say he thought the biggest issue for Eden Park was the need to reverse the decline in attendance at existing fixtures - particularly cricket and rugby matches.
Sautner said earlier that liberalising conditions around matches - for example, by allowing for day/night sessions in cricket tests - would be one measure that could help boost attendance.
He also wanted more free-to-air sport on TV to help re-engage younger fans.