By Robin Martin of RNZ
A proposal to roof the Whanganui Velodrome has dominated the city's Long Term Plan hearings this week.
The council wants to put a basic roof over the track for $20 million but many submitters want it to go further and budget for a multi-use facility, while a significant number say the velodrome has had its day and should be demolished.
The Whanganui Velodrome, with its Malaysian hardwood track, was considered one of the fastest in the world when it was built in 1995 and several New Zealand records have been set there.
But the track was never roofed - as planned - and was closed indefinitely in February because the track is rotting.
The council is consulting on three options for the velodrome: decommission it for $200,000; its preference the $20 million roof (labelled the tin-shed option by some critics); and a $36 million state-of-the-art multi-use centre.
At the hearing many submitters pushed for a new 2.2 or 2b option - a scaled-back $26 million multi-use facility.
Former Whanganui resident John McDonnell, who was heavily involved setting up the Avantidrome in Cambridge, said multi-use was the way to go.
"Put a roof over the velodrome. Construct it and they will come.
"The Whanganui community have shown their support for a covered velodrome facility that would be multi-purpose and, from my eight years of experience at Cambridge, I can see why Whanganui would want to be part of such an exciting venture."
McDonnell said 80 per cent of Avantidrome use was community driven.
Les Kiriona, who owns the Whanganui bar and club Frank, saw potential for putting on gigs at a multi-use facility.
"We have had other groups that have wanted to come to Whanganui but we can't find the right sized venue.
"For us, where we have Frank now, it has a 199 capacity or 475 with extra toilets and stuff like that.
"So anyone wanting to come here with a medium-sized promoter, if you can find a venue that has a capacity 500 to 1000 they won't come here. They skip us and go straight through to New Plymouth."
But about 40 per cent of Whanganui residents want the city to cut its losses.
Paul Lowe was one of those.
"I don't believe a city of this size can afford a luxury like an extravagantly roofed velodrome. Lets get rid of what we've got and face up to the fact that that is what we can afford."
Another local resident, Michael Law, also reckoned the numbers did not add up.
"We have 44,000 people in Whanganui and that's not a great investment. If you look on a return on investment of three to one and we look at risk allocation, we would need $3 million worth of social benefit to Whanganui to validate a $1 million loss in operating expenses."
Cycling Whanganui president Ian Murphy believed the operating costs argument did not stack up.
"The elephant in the room here potentially is, what do other facilities in this town cost council and that is pretty quiet in this conversation.
"We've got a pretty impressive facility being built across the other side of Victoria Avenue from where the velodrome is. I have a suspicion that's going to cost us a bit each year."
A point councillor Philippa Baker-Hogan was happy to reinforce by adding that estimated running costs for the upgraded Sargeant Gallery would be $2m annually.
Bob Smith of the Regional Velodrome Development Trust warned that the council's preferred option would end up the preserve of cyclists only.
"The trend throughout the world today is to build multi-purpose facilities. Existing single-use facilities are being re-purposed.
"In England, football stadiums, traditionally the Mecca for soccer fans, are now being re-purposed to become multi-use."
The Trust was behind the 11th-hour concept for the scaled-back $26m multi-purpose stadium.
Former councillor Terry Coxon got underneath the Mayor Hamish McDouall's skin when he suggested the council was deliberately sidelining the Velodrome Trust.
"My appeal to you is to listen to Bob Smith and his team. Cover the velodrome with a proven membrane roof, but do it now. Stop procrastinating. There endeth the lesson."
The council will decide which option it will fund on May 25.