A council boss says it doesn't make sense to waste more than $1 billion on a new downtown stadium, saying money is better spent on Eden Park and other stadiums.
Andrew Barnes, the brains behind the four-day week for staff at Perpetual Guardian, came in as chairman of Regional Facilities Auckland last November to sort out the city's stadiums, including Eden Park.
With Eden Park heading towards insolvency, the city's politicians, bureaucrats and sporting codes are divided on what next for Eden Park and other stadiums.
Eden Park is in serious financial trouble. A report done by consultants EY for council says revenue is falling, there is no money for new turf, floodlights and giant video screens. It faces losses of $80m over the next decade. All Black tests and other major events are at risk.
The bleak financial outlook coincides with a fourth stadium strategy by RFA since 2012. Plans A, B and C all failed and Plan D is under attack from a powerful group of councillors.
The latest plan involves spending up to $91 million to transform Western Springs into a cricket oval for tests and other matches, and turning Mt Smart and QBE North Harbour stadiums into "community stadiums".
Architectural drawings by Warren and Mahoney for the cricket oval show a light-weight elevated pavilion with corporate facilities for 700 people and premium covered seats floating above an open, paved concourse around the oval.
Within the oval concourse is open seating with standing terraces on the hillside. There are plans for a Walk of Fame from the Great North Rd entrance, cricket training nets and upgraded outer fields for the likes of the Ponsonby Rugby Club.
Barnes said the latest "venue development strategy" involved an ageing Mt Smart Stadium where the Warriors have a lease until 2028 when it will probably not be fit for purpose and require upgrading at a cost of about $350m.
Without Mt Smart, he said, concerts have to go somewhere else and with Eden Park restricted to six concerts a year - subject to a resource consent process - concerts would continue at Western Springs where plans have been drawn up for a cricket oval costed at up to $91m.
Barnes said the cricket venue could end up as a lower level facility costing less, "and a fraction of what is being spent on the America's Cup and linked to a $300m saving at Mt Smart".
Big one-day and T20 matches, like the recent matches between the Black Caps and India, would stay at Eden Park, he said.
"Our strategy is quite simple. Don't rebuilt Mt Smart. Build an alternative concert and cricket venue at Western Springs and council needs to put in place a long-term strategy to support Eden Park...that is the most cost-effective solution.
"My position has been crystal clear. A joined-up strategy is necessary. It doesn't make sense to spend what would be $1b-plus to put a downtown stadium in place. We have to maximise the use of facilities we currently have, and that means Eden Park," Barnes said.
For the first time, he said, it was about joining up the strategies between RFA and Eden Park, saying RFA is in discussions with Eden Park about working together to maximise benefits.
Eden Park Trust chairman Doug McKay said the trust had cordial relations with RFA, but no involvement with the latest stadium strategy, "which is not really a stadium strategy, just a shuffling of existing assets".
McKay said he had a sense from Barnes that Eden Park should be at the table.
"We are happy to share our views when we are asked and invited into the conversation. Clearly there is a solution but I don't want to do what RFA is doing, jumping to a solution and saying this is what is happening," he said.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said his priority is to resolve a $40m loan to Eden Park underwritten by council to complete an upgrade for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
When the loan terminates in September he expects the trust to pay a "commercial rate of return" to protect the interests of ratepayers.
The mayor said council had made no decisions about $64m sought by Eden Park for maintenance, but his personal view is that any money is secured as a loan rather than a grant to protect ratepayers in the event Eden Park was sold.
Councillor Wayne Walker, a member of the 'B' team of councillors who support Eden Park, said the sporting codes overseen by council with outside expertise need to resolve the stadium issue, not RFA.
He accused RFA of acting like a "rogue state" by providing councillors and the public with misleading and insufficient information about its plans, including a business case.
"We have had an unsatisfactory process. It has not been stakeholder led. It has not been at all well-informed. We have a plan for cricket that takes cricket away from Eden Park," Walker said.
Under a heads of agreement between council and New Zealand Cricket, the national body will not put any money into Western Springs but has preferential rights to the facilities.
At this stage, Auckland Cricket has no plans to move from its home at Eden Park, which comes with benefits of about $1m a year, plus use of the number two ground during summer.