By WAYNE THOMPSON
North Shore City is demanding a promise from the Auckland Regional Council that city ratepayers won't have to bail out the Ericsson Stadium development.
Mayor George Wood said the city council was angry and nervous about the regional council's decision last week to raise a loan for a $23 million upgrade of the stadium in Penrose.
He said his council was upset about the upgrade decision being made in secret and before the ARC's hearing of submissions on its annual budget plan.
In July, the ARC will send out regional rates bills directly to 450,000 property owners for the first time.
Budget information so far given to the public does not mention the stadium work.
Public submissions on the budget plan close on May 1.
Mr Wood said his council had even considered seeking a court injunction to stop the ARC because it was so sceptical about the claims of ARC parks chairman Bill Burrill that a loan of up to $21 million would have no impact on rates.
Mr Burrill said the upgrade would provide a home base for 15 years for the Warriors rugby league club, and earnings from the new stand's seats, hospitality facilities and corporate boxes would repay the loan over 15 years.
"We on the North Shore have heard that one before," said Mr Wood, "and twice bitten twice shy."
He said the ARC was making a great leap of faith by pinning its hopes on a privately owned football team filling stadium seats for 15 years.
"Teams have bad years and people have fads about sporting codes, so what happens if they go off the boil and the fans stop coming?
"Our council is concerned about who will have to pick up the shortfall."
North Shore ratepayers are already supporting a rival to the ARC's Ericsson Stadium - the multi-purpose North Harbour Stadium at Albany.
Last summer, it was used for first class cricket, first grade rugby league, Super 12 rugby and two rock concerts.
This winter it will host five North Harbour home NPC games, the Chatham Cup soccer final and a Maori versus Tonga rugby match.
But although the stadium is well-used, making it pay its way has been an uphill battle for its owners, the North Shore Domain and North Harbour Stadium Trust.
The city council had to throw it a lifeline in 1997 when it struck money trouble.
This year, the council expects to pay $425,000 towards the stadium's operating costs.
As part of the 1997 refinancing deal, the council also made interest-free loans to the trust of $5.98 million in February 2000 and $6.9 million last year.
These loans were to be repaid from proceeds of sales of seats and lounges at the stadium and from the sale of naming rights.
The council is guarantor of bank loans of $9 million, plus interest, which helped the trust refinance its borrowings and complete construction of the stadium.
The loans were scheduled to be repaid in 2007 and 2012.
But the council believes it will have to advance the total amount due because the trust will not be able to do so.
* The North Shore City Council is upset over an Auckland Regional Council decision to raise a loan for the $23 million upgrade of Ericsson Stadium.
* North Shore has considered legal action to stop the ARC.
* The city has already had to help prop up the North Harbour Stadium at Albany.