Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown’s long-term budget, due to be released in February, is set to throw a curveball into the future of the city’s two largest stadiums – Eden Park and Mt Smart Stadium.
It comes as the council remains tight-lipped about its preferred option for Auckland’s main stadium, however, emails unveil at least five proposals under consideration and disclosed details about meetings with interested parties.
The budget, outlining spending and financial plans for the next decade, is believed to starkly omit provisions for any improvements or enhancements to these sporting venues. The Herald understands the lack of financing would mean that any work done to develop them would have to be paid for by selling all or part of the land at North Harbour Stadium.
Brown is also thought to be supportive of American billionaire Bill Foley’s willingness to be involved in the development of a waterfront stadium.
On Wednesday, Brown revealed a fresh proposal on the table to replace North Harbour Stadium at Albany with a smaller one on the same site. Meanwhile, Foley, the billionaire owner of Auckland’s new A-League team, expressed his desire for a waterfront stadium within three years. Additionally, Eden Park presented a multimillion-dollar vision for a revamp in April, with reports of a waterfront stadium dating back to 2018.
In September, the council sought expressions of interest for proposals to envision a “future-proof multi-purpose stadium”, aiming to maximise economic benefits and prioritise the interests of Aucklanders.
The Herald requested information from the council on specific details about submissions under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act but these were withheld. However, released information included emails and reports shedding light on the situation.
Emails between Stu Mullin, mayor’s office head of governance and operations, Jazz Singh, head of finance and budget, and Simon Johnstone, who leads the management of relationships with key cultural and sporting organisations, on August 30 said in a draft email to the working group exploring matters relating to Auckland stadium venues the office was aware of five proposals, including Eden Park.
A separate email sent from Johnston to Mullin showed timelines and meetings regarding main stadium discussions:
- March 28 – [Redacted] at Terrace Cafe 2pm to discuss the consortium he is leading. An intro from Nick Hill.
- March 29 – Michael Sage at Simpson Grierson 2pm to discuss the Waterfront Arena. An intro through deputy mayor Simpson, who had received a call through her office to meet. Desley asked if I could instead. This option hit the media in 2018.
- March 30 – [Redacted]. chair of Eden Park Trust, requested a meeting on Eden Park 2.0 presentation at Nottinghill Kitchen Cafe 8am.
- March 30 – [Redacted] requested a meeting about a stadium opportunity, location unidentified, if the Auckland Council had the appetite to consider outside Eden Park and Waterfront Arena.
Johnson said he did not receive “actual proposals” except for Waterfront Arena and Eden Park 2.0 and 2.1, adding “The other two were visuals of possibilities but not actually with detailed info on funding or design.”
What we asked for
The Herald asked for a range of information under the LGOIMA like details of each submission and any additional documents, reports, or assessments associated, as well as whether the council identified a preferred or favoured application.
It requested, but not limited to, the following details:
- All submissions of interest received for the “Auckland Main Stadium” REOI, including attachments and associated documents, including details of each submission and any additional documents, reports, or assessments.
- Has the Auckland Council identified a preferred or favoured application or proposal among those received for the Auckland Main Stadium REOI?
- How does Auckland Council plan to fund the development of the main stadium as proposed in the REOI?
These requests for information were withheld under the LGOIMA sections:
- s7(2)(b)(ii) would be likely unreasonably to prejudice the commercial position of the person who supplied or who is the subject of the information and;
- s7(2)(i) to enable any local authority holding the information to carry on, without prejudice or disadvantage, negotiations (including commercial and industrial negotiations).
Inside the release was an email proposal from Eden Park chief executive Nick Sautner about the Eden Park 2.0 vision which would feature a retractable roof, three new grandstands and a pedestrian promenade, and the pitch from the Waterfront Consortium for Arena Aotearoa that hopes to build partially into the seabed at Bledisloe Wharf.
Eden Park 2.0 vision
Eden Park chief executive Nick Sautner presented the Eden Park 2.0 vision in an email to the mayor. The proposal, published shortly after the Herald published details on the revamp, envisions a 60,000-capacity (currently 50,000) sport and entertainment venue with “modernisation, sustainability, connectivity, and accessibility” at its core.
It featured an all-weather retractable roof, a new north stand, upgrades to the east and west stands, and a new pedestrian bridge over Sandringham Rd.
Sautner emphasised, “Eden Park 2.0 delivers a world‐class, multi‐purpose hybrid stadium venue that not only showcases the best sporting, entertainment, cultural and community events but also promotes sustainability and innovation.”
Arena Aotearoa by Waterfront Consortium
The Waterfront Consortium, comprised of professional consulting firms, plans to build Arena Aotearoa at Bledisloe Wharf. The stadium, with a projected cost of $1.8 billion, boasts a permanent seating capacity of 50,000 (scalable to 70,000) and aims to be completed within 10 years at no cost to ratepayers and taxpayers.
It would be built partly on reclaimed land and partly sunk into the seabed. Other features are a floating roof above sea level to reduce the loss of harbour views and the removal of Captain Cook Wharf, currently used for car imports.
In its stakeholder information pack it said the cost would be met initially by a provider of the ignition funding “ideally the Government”, but would be repaid up front by the preferred developer.
“The Consortium is doing this because we love our City. We want to create a legacy for our children and grandchildren, and we have the skills and experience to do so. The Consortium members are not looking to make any net financial gain out of this project. We have conceived it and, so far, have invested six years and over $3 million of our own time and cash, and we very much want to bring this to fruition.”
It claimed Arena Aotearoa would have direct economic benefits GST of an estimated $3 billion while additionally increasing land values in the nearby area.
Luke Kirkness is an Online Sports Editor for the NZ Herald. He previously covered consumer affairs for the Herald and was an assistant news director in the Bay of Plenty. He won Student Journalist of the Year in 2019.