Mt Smart will tumble to the ground, North Harbour will continue to look like the house down the road some poor bugger half-built before the bank foreclosed, cricket tests that should be played in Auckland will be diverted to a university ground in Dunedin, the Warriors and Blues will play in front of eight people at Eden Park - but don't worry, the All Blacks will come to town once or twice a year and good ol' Eden Park will look a picture.

Welcome to your sporting future, Auckland.

That's what was slapped on the table yesterday when Regional Facilities Auckland (RFA) delivered Stadiums Auckland - A transformational change .

It was a year in the making but it took just five minutes to realise this was a plan for no real change at all.


The report contains no long-term vision for stadiums in Auckland. The city must make do with what it has - that's the RFA vision for transformational change. Most sports folk would have accepted a plan for transformation or change; instead they got a report with both words unnecessarily in the title but no intent to deliver either.

There is no money. That's the bottom line. The report suggests savings can be made by bringing the management of all three stadiums under one umbrella. It also bizarrely suggests moving test cricket to Albany despite clear feedback from cricket that this heresy would be grounds for a holy war.

But even when nothing happens there are winners and losers. The clear winner here is the Eden Park Trust Board. With it having killed off the waterfront stadium option to ensure its own survival pre-World Cup, we ratepayers are now left holding the tickets for a $55 million debt from the over-run on Eden Park's redevelopment.

That debt must now be serviced by channelling as many major events as possible to Eden Park. Unless we ratepayers write it off, of course.

This also means there is no money for significant investment anywhere else. The World Cup hangover comes in the form of a crippling debt on a rugby stadium very few people like or wanted redeveloped in the first place, and other sports are now suffering morning after blues.

League is the biggest loser. The Warriors stay at Mt Smart (unless their games are big enough to help out Eden Park) but the club can forget vital stadium upgrades.

The council has set aside $15.6 million for Mt Smart for the next 10 years - maybe enough to keep the place from failing OSH inspections, perhaps with a speedway track on the No 2 ground thrown in.

With no money to spend, what more could the RFA have done? Well, for starters, it could have listened to their stakeholders at its workshops.

One proposal put before RFA was for planning to begin on a multi-phase downtown stadium. In the first phase, a 30,000-seat stadium with a "soft" roof would be built at some point over the next 10 years.

Mt Smart could then be mothballed and Eden Park kept for big events. Another 10 years or so down the track, the stadium could be built up to 50,000 seats. Eden Park could be retired, and North Harbour fully developed to be the city's smaller event stadium.

Twenty years from now, Auckland would have the stadiums it so desperately needs.

The proposal isn't revolutionary, it is being enacted on the Gold Coast. Skilled Park is built to the same specs as Brisbane's superb Suncorp Stadium, replicating the lower tier of that wonderful sporting cathedral. When the GC's population increases enough - which it surely will - Skilled can be upgraded to meet demand.

The RFA's response to that eminently sensible piece of forward planning takes up two sentences of its 20-page report. "Given current economic conditions and infrastructure funding priorities, [a waterfront stadium] is most unlikely to be funded by local or central Government. At best, a waterfront stadium can only therefore be considered a much longer-term proposition."

Okay RFA, tell us where we are going to be in 20 years, then? "Living in Melbourne" is the likely answer for many of us.