A council boss says speedway needs to be moved out of Western Springs urgently because it's needed for more concerts.
Regional Facilities Auckland chairman Andrew Barnes claimed the entire attendance at speedway last season was equivalent to the crowd for "one-and-a-half rugby matches" and the ratepayers of Auckland can't be expected to subsidise the sport.
Speedway's lease at Western Springs finishes at the end of this season, with the last meet scheduled for March 16. It's uncertain where they will race next year.
Colin Dale Park in Wiri has been mooted as an alternative venue but that would take two to three years to develop and upgrade and the funding hasn't been approved by a cash-strapped council.
Stockcar venue Waikaraka Park has also been suggested as a possible option but that would also need significant development and already has anchor tenants.
The RFA hopes to convert Western Springs into a cricket oval at an estimated cost of $91 million, though that figure is expected to escalate. That redevelopment has yet to be approved by council and would take at least five years.
Western Springs is available while a long-term speedway option is developed but Barnes has ruled out any extension.
"It costs us about $400,000 to maintain speedway at Western Springs," Barnes told the Herald. "[And] the existence of the track precludes using that stadium more times than we would like for concerts ... where a concert would make us, at the very least, $400,000 per night."
Barnes also questioned the business case for speedway, which has been based at Western Springs since the 1930s.
"Sixty thousand people attended the events last [season]," claimed Barnes. "That's the equivalent broadly of one-and-a-half rugby matches. If you then say, are they the same people attending each event, it's approximately 5000 people per event. That is less than would attend a lot of other sporting codes. There is an implicit subsidy, of not being able to use that venue for other things. This is a business, not a charity."
Barnes said speedway's predicament is of their own making.
"It isn't our responsibility to plan for the long-term future of a commercial enterprise," said Barnes. "They had a tenancy agreement, which expired. They knew it expired.
"The question you should be asking Mr Buckley [speedway boss Bill Buckley] is what steps did he take to secure a long-term venue? They are blaming everyone else but this is Mr Buckley's business. Why has it taken him until 2019, at five minutes to midnight, to try and work out a long-term strategy?"
Barnes said he had some sympathy for speedway.
"I'm a bit of a petrolhead myself, though I do classic cars rather than stockcars," said Barnes. "I am doing the Peking to Paris Rally later this year."
That event costs at least $100,000 to participate in.
Buckley refuted most of Barnes' assertions, saying the total annual crowds were closer to 120,000 and pointing out the RFA didn't put any money into track maintenance.
Speedway also have around 850 crew, officials and staff on each night and pay more than $160,000 per year in hireage.
Buckley also stated — correctly — that speedway had been originally promised a move to Mt Smart in 2012, before the RFA's "U-turn" a few years later.
"They are not kicking us out of here," said Buckley. "We need to stay at Springs until a long-term solution is found. RFA walk around in black suits and tell everyone what to do. I've had enough of them and I reckon the city is behind me."
Buckley said it had been almost impossible to deal with the RFA during the past few years.
Two Auckland councillors have backed Buckley's stance, instructing Mayor Phil Goff to rein in a "reckless" RFA that has gone rogue.
"Some of us councillors have had enough of RFA, as indeed I believe the public and sporting codes themselves have," said councillor John Watson.
"They are out of control and we want to begin the process that will disband them and incorporate their operations with the stadiums back into council control."
Goff called for calm.
"There is a lot of heat over this issue," said Goff. "People have got to take a deep breath, step back and think realistically about the most sensible option for speedway's future in Auckland."