By PAUL YANDALL

The Hamilton City Council may move its financial support from the troubled Waikato Stadium project to a new $10.6 million riverside esplanade.

The Millennium Esplanade, one of eight projects proposed by Hamilton's Year 2000 Committee, would see part of Hamilton's riverside transformed into a promenade lined with cafes and restaurants.

It would include a walkway-cycleway bridge costing $3.7 million which would cross the river by the esplanade.

A report from the Year 2000 Committee to the council's strategic planning and policy coordination committee last week outlined progress on the project.

The report refers to the council's capital funding pressures, which "appear likely to reduce with the deferral or cancellation of the Waikato Events Stadium project (and the council's $9 million contribution)."

Hamilton residents will vote in a referendum next month on whether they want the council to contribute towards the $30 million redevelopment plans of WestpacTrust Park and Rugby Park.

The redevelopment plans come in the wake of the scrapping last year of the Tainui Stadium project by the Waikato Stadium Trust after costs escalated to more than $50 million.

Council support will hinge on the referendum, and it is understood that eight of its 14 members do not back the project and that several would prefer the esplanade.

Councillor Garry Mallett said there was little support within the council for the redevelopment plans and he had "more sympathy for the esplanade than the stadium."

The lack of a business plan and "four years of absolute rubbish" from the stadium trust had destroyed council support for the project. "What we want to be careful about is how the esplanade affects rates. We don't want to go building a road to nowhere."

Councillor Steve McLennan said lack of private sector support for the stadium plans made it a risky venture for the council to be involved in.

"The thing with the esplanade is that there is the possibility of it being self-funding through leasing of the land."

The Year 2000 Committee chairwoman, Margaret Evans, said that while she did not want the esplanade to be seen as being in competition with the stadium projects, it could be completed for $8 million worth of seeding money.

Mayor Russ Rimmington, a strong supporter of the stadium redevelopment projects, could not be contacted for comment.