A waterfront stadium is back on the cards with Auckland Mayor Phil Goff commissioning work on the feasibility of a new central city site costing up to $1 billion.
PwC has been commissioned through the council's regional facilities arm to investigate potential sites, including Goff's preference for a stadium on railway land alongside Vector Arena close to the city's main public transport and hospitality facilities.
It follows more than a decade of controversy over whether the city should abandon its showcase venue Eden Park since the government offered to build a waterfront stadium in 2006 for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
The debate flared up again last year after officials questioned the future of Eden Park and Goff pushed the railway site in his mayoral campaign.
"We need to know what the options are for potential stadium sites in Auckland," said Goff last night, warning that if the council did not start planning it would miss the boat.
Goff has previously said Auckland could not afford a white elephant, saying the 50,000-seat Eden Park was limited to 21 night events and could need another $250 million spent on it over the next 15 years.
"This is not something I see as being a priority burden on ratepayers," said Goff, who is struggling to generate new revenue sources to tackle the city's worsening congestion and housing crisis.
He said the council needed to find alternative ways to fund a new stadium, which could cost up to $1 billion. They included contributions from major sporting codes, income from concerts, private sponsorship and selling assets, like Eden Park.
"The option of rebuilding Eden Park is still live but we need to know what other sensible alternatives exist to make the best decision for Auckland," Goff said.
Goff's preferred site alongside Vector Arena has many complex hurdles, including building a 40m high stadium on land with an 18m building height limit, protected volcanic viewshafts to the Auckland Museum and Parnell, and rail and port access considerations.
It is also a very tight footprint for a stadium and could involve realigning The Strand or Quay St.
Regional Facilities Auckland chief executive Chris Brooks said PwC had been commissioned to do a "pre-feasibility" study for a rectangular stadium with a capacity of 25,000 to 50,000 spectators.
He said a stadium of 25,000 would work well for the Warriors and Blues and soccer. Big rugby matches could use a 50,000-seat stadium, he said.
Brooks said the study would look at potential sites in the CBD, the benefits of a stadium to the city, the market demand, the development of a stadium precinct, the broad costs of building and running a stadium, and planning issues.
"At the end of the day we want to get to the point [of] is this possible and if it is possible what are the next steps to take us forward," Brooks said.
PwC are due to report back in the middle of the year.
"If it's feasible you would then look at (whether) we then move to a full feasibility. And, if it is not, what are the other options for the city," Brooks said.
The Blues Super Rugby franchise, mooted as a co-anchor tenant along with the Warriors, would not comment last night but pointed the Herald towards its previous comments on a downtown stadium.
Chief executive Michael Redman told the Herald in March last year that the Blues supported the idea of a stadium in Auckland's CBD and would be happy to leave their spiritual home of Eden Park.
At the time, Redman said the franchise "would seriously consider any proposal presented to us to become a core user".
"The reality is the [Eden Park] capacity is a strength and weakness. We've had very strong crowds (in 2016) of just over 20,000 for our first two games but that is less than half the capacity. Historically we probably only have one round-robin game a year where we might need a 30,000-plus capacity."
The proposal has also drawn support from the Warriors who said last night they were prepared to shift their NRL games to a new venue if it were established prior to their tenancy agreement at Mt Smart Stadium ending in 2028.
Warriors owner Eric Watson has previously expressed interest in investing some of his own money into a downtown stadium project and in establishing a presence within a sporting precinct in the surrounding area which could potentially encompass a Warriors-themed bar or venue and merchandise store.
Calls to the Eden Park Trust Board yesterday for comment were not returned at the time of deadline.