Plans are being formulated to turn Victoria Park into a world-class cricket arena, a move backers hope will bring tests back to Auckland at a suitable venue.
The Herald has obtained concept drawings of the revamped park, produced by one of the country's leading architecture firms, which show Victoria Park transformed into an international cricket oval.
The campaign is being driven by a group of committed fans frustrated by the inertia of local city and cricket authorities.
Test cricket has not been played in the country's largest city since 2006.
Fans of the purest form of the sport have had to drive to Hamilton to get their annual fix. For some, that is preferable to watching at Eden Park with its postage-stamp boundaries and cavernous atmosphere.
Television personality Jeremy Wells - a cricket tragic who has installed a net in his backyard - is fronting the project after being horrified to learn that Eden Park was being considered to host an England test next year.
"Watching live test cricket in a beautiful environment is like snuggling up beside someone you love in a king-size posturepedic bed. Sadly, watching cricket in a venue as soulless as Eden Park feels more like a dodgy one-night stand in the back of your mum's hatchback," he said.
Wells has gathered together a group of like-minded individuals who aim to put pressure on local government and Auckland Cricket to commit to Victoria Park, on the western edge of the CBD.
"Auckland has the unique opportunity to create the most centrally located test venue in the world," Wells said. "Three out of the five playing days fall during the working week, so if you want lunchtime or post-work crowds surely you'd play the game somewhere the majority of people work?"
The site would also have easy access to the Wynyard Quarter and Viaduct entertainment precincts.
"The other options are rubbish. Nobody wants to haul themselves to Glen Innes [Colin Maiden Park] to watch cricket, unless you're looking for a good deal on a new or used Commodore in the lunch break."
Even Justin Vaughan, then chief executive of New Zealand Cricket, seemed to harbour doubts about the suitability of Eden Park when he announced England might play there.
"We have to make sure it's an environment where spectators want to go and witness first hand rather than stay at home and watch on TV."
Victoria Park is now a dual-purpose club cricket and league ground.
The cost of turning the park into a ground capable of hosting international cricket is not expected to be huge. An embankment, wicket block and players and practice facilities would make up the bulk of the expense.
The players have enjoyed the move towards smaller venues for tests.
"The trend has been to move test cricket here to boutique grounds and it's been great not only for the players but most importantly for fans," said former captain Daniel Vettori. "I think everyone enjoys the intimacy of a single-purpose cricket venue."
The Victoria Park plan has the pitch running north to south between Victoria and Fanshawe Sts, with a grass embankment at the Halsey St end of the park and temporary stands at the Northern Motorway flyover end.
The stands would be removed when there was no cricket so the public had full access to the park.
The proposed capacity would be for 8000 to 10,000, ample for test and domestic cricket, though limited overs internationals against drawcard sides would need to be staged at the larger-capacity Eden Park.
Drawings show that an Oval of similar size to Wellington's Basin Reserve or London's The Oval would be easily accommodated on Victoria Park's footprint.
Wells said that in lieu of council funding - a park upgrade is not in the long-term Auckland Plan - he has already held preliminary talks with one of New Zealand's biggest companies about throwing some financial muscle behind the project.
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