The concept of a downtown stadium is back in the news again, with new mayor Phil Goff proposing a site on the rail yards next to Vector Arena. It’s interesting that this keeps coming up, my theory is that the public are beginning to recognise the importance of well-located infrastructure and the value of centrality and good transport links. Perhaps a stadium is an easy focus for people to think about issues of location and accessibility?
In this post I wanted to explore a concept for how a stadium here might work, particularly from a transport and urban form perspective. Naturally this is a controversial topic so please bear with me and put issues like funding and whether we actually need a new stadium or not to one side. I’ll go on the record saying it’s unlikely to be an economically sound prospect, but let’s indulge ourselves a little and think what it could be like if it were.
So the Quay Park location. I think this site has three main things going for it for a stadium;
- Location: It is located downtown, well just on the edge of downtown and walking distance from more or less everything the city has to offer. This includes a lot of hotel rooms, a lot of restaurants and bars, and indeed a hell of a lot of parking, most of which is highly underutilised outside of nine to five weekday times.
- Acessibility: It is centrally located within the Auckland region, giving the best access from all over. In particular downtown is the centre of the regional transport system. All the motorways, the rail lines, the bus routes and ferries converge on downtown Auckland. Our transport system delivers about 100,000 people to central Auckland every morning, so the same system can easy handle 40,000 stadium patrons.
- Existing land uses: Currently the old rail yards are underutilised land with the ability to actually construct a stadium there. There are few other pieces of land big enough anywhere in Auckland, let alone downtown where you can do all manner of sports games, events and concerts at any time. However right next door is the Vector Arena which has already set a precedent for what the Quay Park precinct might be all about.
A good site then, so on to the concept. What I’m proposing is a stadium sat just east of the Vector Arena and the old railway building. It would be a tight fit, requiring a rectangular field for football codes only (sorry cricket, but Western Springs looks great anyway) and a relatively compact full bowl to get in seating for 40,000+ people at maximum capacity. I like the concept of having two tiers of seating, with the lower level being used for smaller games and events and the upper only opened for blockbuster test matches. That way the place feels full and lively no matter the draw. The model shown in the photos is San Marmes Stadium in Bilbao, although I did shrink it slightly as San Marmes can support over 50,000 seated spectators.
In addition to the new stadium I’d propose that the grand old railway building next door be re-purposed at the same time. Instead of student accommodation that wonderful building could be reconfigured into a small to medium size event space and function rooms. This would result in a sports and events precinct with three key facilities, the large open stadium, the medium size enclosed Vector Arena, and the smaller Old Railway event space.
Now there is of course the existing Quay Park rail junction, The Strand station and a stabling facility to deal with. My plan is to build the stadium over the junction triangle, with a large pedestrian concourse level around the three facilities on a deck over the rail lines. I suppose this would be the time to grade separate the junction too, presumably by keeping the eastern line at a lower level longer while the Parnell branch runs over the top as it does today. This way all the rail movements, together with servicing and truck access to the three buildings, would be tucked away underneath a broad pedestrian plaza stretching around the stadia and linking it to the surrounding streets.
One could walk to the stadium from Quay St or The Strand, but also on new lanes alongside Vector or the Railway Building, or down a new lane in between. These lanes could be filled with bars and eateries to serve the three event facilities and the general public. Working in some offices and even apartments in and around the precinct could be a good idea too, to get extra value out of the development even when there isn’t a game on. You could even consider having the outward facing sides of the stadium full of commercial space, with several floors of offices taking advantage of the north facing harbour views.
So on to the transport. Number one is the excellent walking connectivity the stadium precinct would have to downtown and the surrounding neighbourhoods, by virtue of the elevated concourse wrapping around the three buildings.
The second part of the transport concept would be the double road frontages, one on the north side to Quay St, and the other on the south side to The Strand. These two roads could be enhanced as boulevards to separate through traffic and local movements, potentially even separating a SH16 extension alongside the stadium. In any case, both of these road frontages could be staging areas for buses and coaches, taxis and VIP parking, as well as access to the undercroft loading docks and service areas. I don’t propose any general parking on site, for a start people can use any of the multitude of parking buildings in town no more than ten minutes away, and secondly spreading this traffic demand across the city is far better than concentrating it all in one peak.
Thirdly, the rail. I’m suggesting a new Quay Park railway station immediately east of the stadium, and directly linked to the pedestrian concourse at one end, and The Strand overbridge at the other. I think this could do with three broad island platforms with six tracks and there is room for something this size. Two of these tracks would be used as a regular stop on the Eastern Line to and from the city (which once the CRL is built, also runs through to the Southern Line). This gives regular access to nearby offices and apartments, and during an event at the stadium or Vector you can simply increase the Southern-Eastern line to peak frequency to move a lot of people to the site.
The next two tracks would be used for intercity services and regional express trains. With the main CRL line on the next platform over this would allow Quay Park to be the main rail terminal for trains from the Waikato and the Bay of Plenty, without clogging up Britomart or the CRL. Naturally during big Rugby games these intercity platforms would be very busy also.
The final two tracks wouldn’t be used for regular trains, but they would be used during events to bring the Western and Onehunga lines in to Quay Park. I don’t propose diverting these lines via Quay Park routinely as that would add far too much time over them continuing to use the curve between Parnell and Britomart, but during events the extra access and capacity would be useful. These could be event only special trains from the West, or during events you could simply bounce the whole main line in and out like we do at Newmarket today.
In summary, Quay Park station would be a new ‘metro’ stop on the main line between the east and the city/south all day, every day, while during events up to six platforms worth of trains could serve a huge amount of customers. According to a quick calculation such a station could accommodate sixty or seventy trains an hour in total, potentially enough to singlehandedly deliver a capacity crowd to the stadium in under an hour. There would also be a big benefit for operations on the CRL. Extra peak frequency could be staged from the station to pick up commuter crowds at Britomart, while the extra platforms could be used for interpeak stabling during the day on weekdays (assuming no blockbuster events happen 9-5 on work days).
All of this would be very expensive of course, with a lot of local opposition and competing schemes… and one must consider the value of this over simply working with the existing stadiums we have. However, it looks like the location would work well and the outcome would be great on several levels: a new premier stadium anchoring a combined sports and events precinct, a new rail station and terminal for local and intercity trains that also improves CRL operations, and fixed up local roads and streets to greatly enhances the Quay Park area and stitch it in between downtown and Parnell.
As always, let us know what you think in the comments section below.