It seems every few years the “Auckland needs a city centre stadium” debate rears it’s head again. Most recently this was a few weeks ago after it was revealed the Mayor had pre-feasibility report commissioned by PWC who had identified six potential locations. The locations and most of the report are still confidential and despite the report costing $1 million, has apparently not even come up with an answer as to where it should be.
Since details of the report emerged, it’s been in the news a number times but most relevant to this post was this article in the Herald suggesting three of the possible locations.
Railway land alongside the Spark Arena is believed to be the frontrunner for a National Stadium in central Auckland, but Victoria Park and Wynyard Quarter are also understood to be in the mix.
The location of six possible sites for a central city stadium costing $1.1 billion to $1.5b have been redacted from pre-feasibility report by PwC for reasons of commercial sensitivity.
However, the Herald understands that the railway land, which Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has previously expressed a preference for, best meets the requirements for sufficient development and operating space for a stadium.
The railway land, owned by local iwi Ngati Whatua, is on a tight footprint, but is ideally located close to the city’s main rail, bus and ferry services, the motorway network, and bars and restaurants.
Other sites put forward by PwC are thought to be Victoria Park and Wynyard Quarter on the waterfront. Retaining Eden Park could be on the list of six sites and the other two sites remain under wraps.
The Victoria Park option sounds like the kind of deliberately outlandish thing that gets put in a report to make up the numbers and make the other suggestions look better. Quay Park is touted as the preferred option but it has it’s challenges too, such as it’s a tight sight, over the top of the railway land and would be more than double the current 18m height limit. Nick has written about such an option before.
Now I want to make it clear that I don’t think a new stadium is a priority for Auckland. We’ve got a lot more important things, that we need to be spending ratepayer and taxpayer money on. And even if we did have the money for one, stadiums are not necessarily good use of valuable inner city space. Except for the couple of times a year when there are major events on, they tend to be large, lifeless places.
But the discussions got me thinking, is there somewhere else, close to the city but probably not on the list that could fit a stadium. Somewhere with just as good, if not better transport links that Quay Park. Somewhere close to amenities like bars for pre/post event festivities. Somewhere that doesn’t put a huge structure on or next to our prime waterfront land, likely resulting in lengthy and acrimonious legal battles. Finally, if we’re going to spend the kind of money suggested, could we use it to address other issues we have too.
I think there could be such a place, right above the scar that is the Central Motorway Junction. These images were put together for me by Nick.
The CMJ at this point is about 200m wide and 300m long, easily enough to fit a modern stadium. It’s also a space that is unlikely to be used for anything else. There are a lot of other benefits too.
With Auckland’s current plans, the site would be one of the most accessible in all of Auckland. Just over the motorway would be the Karangahape Rd station entrance at Mercury Lane. That would give access to all of the existing rail network. The planned light rail line on the Isthmus and to the Airport, as well as the one to the Northwest, would also pass right by or even under the stadium. We believe that in the next decade, those lines will be extended to the North Shore so the site would have close access to all rapid transit lines passing through the city. It would also be only a short walk to Symonds St or to Gt North Rd for buses to other parts of the Isthmus.
Plazas surrounding the stadium would allow both sides of the motorway to be reconnected. The Newton Rd side in particular would present a much nicer face for pedestrians than the current exposed and unfriendly bridge. It would also have great access to the NW Cycleway and potentially directly Te Ara I Whiti (Lightpath) too.
There’s even a lot of parking nearby with thousands of spaces within a 10-15 minute walk.
A Quay Park stadium is touted as being close to waterfront bars and restaurants. This location is obviously extremely close to Karangahape Rd but it is also only a short walk to the bars and restaurants of Ponsonby too. Even the centre of town is only 1.5km away (about the same as the Quay Park option would be from there).
Such a stadium wouldn’t be without it’s challenges though. Some of these include:
- The biggest of these would obviously be building over the motorway. The whole structure would obviously need to be on piles and that wouldn’t be cheap, but then any building on the reclaimed land of the waterfront is going to need some hefty piling work anyway. And while there are plenty of lanes to take into account, there are at least a lot of gaps between the various connections in which to put those piles. It’s worth noting that many places have built over the top of roads, either capping them for parks or even just for buildings, like in New York with the Trans-Manhattan Expressway.
- Covering the motorway for that distance may require ventilation and/or fire systems which would add to the operational costs for the motorway network.
- A stadium here is also only about 1.5km from Eden Park raising the question of just how needed a new one is.
- The area on all sides of the motorway are starting to change fast and will only continue to do so once the City Rail Link has been completed. That could increase the chances of conflict and opposition from those living in the area.
As I said, I don’t at all think this is a priority but if we’re talking about potential locations, why not chuck this one on the list.
Bonus image, this version is by our friend Cornelius.