Debate about a new stadium in the city has once again reared it’s head
A new football stadium in downtown Auckland is back in play, a decade after the city’s politicians and rugby establishment said no to a stadium on the waterfront.
The Warriors have secured their future at Mt Smart Stadium until 2028 and sometime after that Eden Park will need major investment with nothing set aside in the bank.
Chris Brooks, the council boss charged with salvaging the city’s troubled stadiums strategy, says there is a view the city needs to decide whether to reinvest in Eden Park or build a new stadium.
Warriors managing director Jim Doyle wants a stadium as the home of rugby, league and football in the heart of the city.
The transport was really good and a stadium would create a vibrancy in the centre of town that Melbourne already enjoys, said Mr Doyle.
Eden Park Trust board chairman Doug McKay was unaware of talk about a new stadium, but hoped to be part of any future conversation.
Eden Park, he said, could cover its interest bill and running costs but could not put aside depreciation funding of about $7 million to $8 million a year for future work.
“What that means in [10 or 20 years’] time when you need an upgrade is you have to go cap in hand to the Government and the council,” he said.
I think most people would agree that the stadium situation in Auckland is absurd. Eden Park is wrong in so many ways but the alternatives aren’t any better either.
Instantly talk has also returned to the idea of a waterfront stadium – something proposed by former Labour government a decade ago to be built for the 2011 Rugby World Cup but which was opposed by the regional council and others.
Back in 2006 I thought a waterfront stadium was a good idea and I was disappointed it didn’t happen. However I’ve since changed my views on the matter and I’m glad it didn’t happen.
The reality is that like other often cited city developments such as convention centres and casinos, stadiums are incredibly space hungry inward looking structures. Yes they absolutely can attract people to the city when games or concerts are on but the issues is that for the rest of the week they sit idle, large and lifeless. That is perhaps the worst thing to put on the most prime real estate in the region – the waterfront.
Take as a comparison somewhere like Wynyard Quarter. The development currently under way is about the same size as a stadium would need and across the week would generate far more activity than a stadium with a weekly rugby or league game would.
And of course this doesn’t take into account the costs to the city/government of building a stadium. The 2006 proposal was estimated to cost around $500 million. What projects would Auckland or the government need to defer to enable it to fund that and what would the opportunity cost of that be. Stadiums all over the world also have a history of not being sound investments for cities. Perhaps if the owners of the sports teams who would use these facilities were prepared to stump up the construction costs it might make me think differently but they don’t seem to be suggesting that.
But if we were to think seriously about building a new stadium near the city where would it go?
Looking at a number of stadiums designed specifically for sports codes like Rugby or League and with similar capacity to Eden Park it seems they generally need around 200m x 180-200m. As I mentioned, quite space hungry. There are not too many places in or near the city we could put something that large. The images below show how much space would approximately be needed at the locations suggested.
The waterfront is one option but as mentioned, in my view not ideal. That might change if the port was moved but still I suspect there is better development that could happen there if occurred. In any case I think it would have to be further down the waterfront than what was proposed in 2006.
The City Works Depot site seems to be the only relatively clear site that exists. The distance between Wellesley St and Cook St is about 200m but to get the width need it would require taking out buildings and realigning Sale St. The sites needed are also in private ownership and suffer the same problem, would be more valuable to their owners as a mix of office and residential development.
The only other place with that much space that is not already a public park would be over the top of the parts of the CMJ but imagine it would be quite an engineering challenge and therefore quite expensive
What do you think, should there be a new stadium eventually and where do you think it should be – of course other suggestions are welcome.