A few weeks ago there were rumours about a new, privately funded stadium proposal for Auckland. The proposal has now been released and it’s far more than just a stadium with its backers saying it will become New Zealand’s largest ever infrastructure project and could be delivered within the next 10 years.
It come from a group of businesses who have self-funded the proposal and call themselves the Auckland Waterfront Consortium and they’ve been working on this plan for 18 months. Their plan involves redeveloping all of Bledisloe Wharf as what they’re calling the Bledisloe Quarter and intended to complement Wynyard Quarter at the other end of the waterfront. The centrepiece would be a new 50,000 seat (expandable to 65k) fully enclosed stadium sunk into the seabed to reduce the visible bulk of it. It would be able to host rectangle field sports as large concerts. In addition, there would be about 2,500 dwellings, enough for about 6,000 people, and enough office space for about 6,000 employees.
The plan below shows the thinking for how Bledisloe Wharf would be developed with the stadium sticking half out into the harbour but in line with the current wharf. It would require the removal of both Captain Cook and Marsden Wharves, the latter is happening anyway. The proponents also say that the northern side could then act as a mooring space for the mega cruise ships that can’t currently dock in Auckland and for which the council plan to build a mooring dolphin. Around the stadium are the other elements of the development along with public open space.
The stadium being submerged certainly is unique and the below cross section shows the scale of that. They say the design incorporates the Ministry for the Environments recommendations on rising sea levels as well as GNS Tsunami modelling and Auckland Council inundation and Civil Defence studies.
With the stadium already below the water level, perhaps it could also be designed to replicate the Colosseum and the mock sea battles they had.
One of the big problems with stadia in general is that they’re large, bulky and inward-looking structures that are busy on ‘game day’ but quiet the rest of the week. A huge box on the waterfront is the last thing we need. Sinking the stadium helps reduce some of those problems and the designers also want as much as possible to be used. Around the edge of the stadium the designers want to keep it publicly accessible and so the design incorporates stairs down into the harbour, like at Wynyard and has been proposed at other a few other locations too.
In addition, the design has a floating roof to help further reduce the visual impact on the harbour.
This is certainly an interesting proposal, more so because it is said to be at not cost to tax or ratepayers. It would be paid for by the residential and commercial development on the rest of the Bledisloe Quarter as well as development at Eden Park, although they say work hasn’t been done on what that would look like, and by avoiding future maintenance of Mt Smart stadium. Given the stadium alone could cost close to $3 billion that’s no small feat but also means those developments are going to need to be high end to get the return. The also say the plan is that lease the land in the same way that other waterfront land, such as at Wynyard, is on long term leases.
Being privately funded certainly takes one of the major stings out of the proposal but there are plenty of headwinds this idea will need to navigate before it even gets close to being given approval. Ports of Auckland currently own the land and it is used for primarily for the importation and storage of cars. How willing are they going to be to give that up without a hell of a fight – or perhaps the government will step in and shift aspects of it. Reclamation of the harbour has become a hot topic in Auckland, as seen most recently in the discussions around the America’s Cup works. There are plenty of others with an interest in the waterfront and it will be interesting to see the position of those groups.
The consortium made up of the businesses below.
- Engeo Limited – Engineering.
- Jones Lang Lasalle – Real estate feasibility and business case.
- Ernst & Young – Economic impact and business case.
- Simpson Grierson – Legal.
- Peddle Thorp Aitken Limited – NZ-based architecture, master planning. (Peddle Thorp have entered into a subcontract arrangement with HOK, international stadium architects based in the USA.)
- Planning Focus – Resource management.
- Phil O’Reilly Design Limited – Initial concept and creative consultant.
- Rider Levett Bucknall Limited – Construction costs and project planning.
- The Property Strategists – Real estate feasibility.
- Buildmedia – architectural 3D visualisation imagery.