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.
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88 comments

  1. The proposal seems to assume that someone else (ie a public sector entity) will pay for relocating or removing the Ports of Auckland operations that currently use that space. Relocating won’t be cheap. Alternatively the port could downsize its operations to fit in a smaller footprint but this comes with a high opportunity cost in terms of foregone economic activity. Either option is a cost borne by the public and means this project isn’t free.

    This project is an interesting example of value capture: Using revenue from intensive residential development to fund a large infrastructure project. It has me thinking though…
    – Is a waterfront stadium really the best use of several billion dollars?
    – Is this only viable because it relies on public land being undervalued?
    – Is this only viable because it captures windfall gains from changes to planning restrictions?
    – Would it be cheaper to buy out the residents around Eden Park, expand the stadium’s operating hours and intensify the suburb with (properly soundproofed) mid-rise apartment blocks?

    1. Yes. And they will want all the ownership bits first so they can deliver a stadium later. then when that hits financial problems the bankers will go straight to the Councillors and threaten them with impending doom unless they agree to underwrite the whole mess. Forget the Alamo, Remember North Harbour Stadium and the dirty shit the bank pulled there.

    2. The Bledisloe Container Terminal is closing, it will only be cars and other ro-ro traffic using that wharf in the near future. I think this is a much better use of the space than as a giant car park.

  2. Seems like a slam dunk. council should ust have claw back contracts if they miss deadlines and potentially make it a 300 year lease to them so eventually the land/sea returns to public ownership.

    1. Really? A slam dunk? Not sure you have much experience with development in NZ…. nothing is a slam dunk, certainly not with a project like this. Claw-back contracts are the very least of their worries….

  3. i notice that the proposal includes residential development nearby. Isn’t that just replicating the current situation at Eden Park?

    1. I would assume that the residential buildings will be sited at the eastern most end of the site and would also have plenty of sound insulation. I would also assume that there would be some wide pedestrian streets to efficiently funnel patrons to and from the city not requiring the road closures that Eden Park currently employs.

      1. Yes reclamation at the ferry building, reducing car lanes along Quay St are planned, and the cycle lane has widened the footpath for peds. If this plan were to go ahead, opening up Bledisloe to the public could also mean possible removal of parts of the red fence between Bledisloe and Queens wharves making it a large open plaza.

        I like the idea sinking it into the ground, but worry about the need to put apartments next to it.

  4. If I’ve got this right, the scheme relies on the development rights to half of the port and all of eden park being handed over to the development consortium.

    My first question is, why would they do this. My second question is, if they were happy to do that, wouldn’t they want a more intensive use and better return for their prime waterfront land?

    I’m struggling to see how any of this marries up.

    1. I’ll just add, I think that in a perfect world a downtown stadium makes sense, due to access to the copious mass transit, parking, hotels and bars that the city centre already affords.

      However I don’t see any reason for a waterfront stadium, stadiums don’t need or use water views, in fact they turn their back on them and preclude the land being used for things like apartments, offices and public spaces that can thrive on water views.

      City stadium maybe, waterfront stadium, no.

      1. Agreed. I liked the idea someone had a while back about building a stadium above the central motorway junction. It’d be adjacent to the city, reduce severance and utilise some wasted space.

      2. Carlaw Park, on the face of it, still makes far more sense. Why on earth did they not think of that before they sold it?

      3. Looking at the design how does this one turn it’s back on the view. The Countdown and attached carpark across the street don’t have any use for the view they have, and I have no issues blocking the view of those awful Scene Apartments, it’s payback for them restricting the views of all the buildings behind them is ok by me!

  5. How much can we do with Eden Park (roof, soundproofing, PT concourse) for $1.8b?

    Let’s compare hypothetical apples with hypothetical apples here.

    1. Buy 1000 houses around Eden Park and bulldoze them.
      Then lease the land to some developers to build 30+ storey high apartment towers, suitably soundproofed and spaced.

  6. Wouldn’t it be nice if the people running businesses that have the sort of money to afford something like this had a more diverse view of what the city needs?

    We’ve barely moved on from the days of rugby, racing and beer. It’s just that there’s more of a gap between those with money and the people suffering from social fracturing. Yesterday, I was reading about poor homes where the curtains are never opened, because the residents are too ashamed to let anyone see their poverty. And now this. Pathetic.

    1. Hey concerts too. I wonder if in summer it could be some sort of giant pop-up park with natural features, pools etc? Just thinking ideas. I probably sounding quite pro this stadium but not really, it seems too many in agreeemnt commenting against it & so stirring the pot a bit.

      1. Alternatively we could just have a cbd park with natural features, pools, etc. Stirring the pot… now where would the fun be in that? 🙂

    2. Have you not seen all off the Tongan flags around the city lately? And the happy, smiling faces on all of those Tongans as they look forward to their Rugby League team taking on the might of Australia this weekend. It is sport that is bringing all of this pride and pleasure to these folk, But perhaps in your world poor folk should be in the factories working and not wasting their money on rugby, racing and beer. After all rugby (union or league) requires a stadium to play in. Perhaps in your view the monstrosity that is Mt Smart, in the industrial Penrose / Te Papapa area, is good enough for these poor folk.

      1. Last I looked football (of any code) needs a field to play on. A stadium is an entirely optional extra.
        The crowds at school and club games suggest that these fans actually enjoy their sport -even without the trappings of a high end stadium with high end prices.

  7. If you want a waterfront stadium, then come to Wellington – we already have one of those – Westpac “Caketin” Stadium. Or two, if you want to count the ASB Indoor Stadium as well.

    The big issue for any waterfront proposal in Auckland is of course going to be the blocking of views out to the harbour. I’m sure it is not intentional, but the proposed stadium does look as though it has been sited to cause the maximum possible view blockage out to sea. They’ve countered that with that audacious huge “See-through” (Sea-through?) slot, where apparently there will still be clear views out to the harbour. Despite that quality render, I’m pretty much disinclined to believe that – parallax is going to dictate that you’re left with just a tiny thin slot, not big enough to see much out the other side at all. If you want the roof to have even the faintest chance of looking see-through, then I’d advise a flat ring would be better. Or no roof at all…

    I’m also rather disinclined to believe the size of the columns or their situation – splashing around in the tide. I call total bullshit on this. For a start, if they are columns i.e. holding load down, then the width of them is just too slender to do much use at all, and so perhaps they are just planned as tension struts to stop the outer edge of the roof from blowing away. Their location in the sea though, is just crazy – Engeo Engineering should probably have just said No to that, as they surely must know that they’ll corrode like crazy.

    Last time anyone in Auckland tried to put a building on stilts half in the water, was the old Ports of Auckland building – down on the waterfront near Commercial Bay – with massive concrete piers into the harbour – they were made to rest them several metres back behind layers of concrete wharf edge, in case a boat rammed them and inadvertently demolished the building. I honestly can’t see anyone at Auckland Council allowing the risk of that to happen with the Building Consent, given the amount of shit I’ve had to deal with recently for a simple house: 65 RFIs to be answered for a simple timber home in the Waitakeri ranges. The concept of a column in the surf zone on a wharf near another floating object should send the entire BC team at AC into hysterics for years to come.

    1. The bigger issue is the engineering required to stop it floating. By my very brief calculations this sunken stadium would displace at least half a million tons of seawater. It will take huge strength in the shell to stop the water pressure flooding in, and huge tension with some sort of bedrock anchor to stop it floating up.

      Ever tried to push the bottom of a bucket into a bathtub full of water? This is a bucket the size of a small town.

      1. Absolutely – yes, totally right. The inclination of this stadium is that it is going to want to pop up out of the water and float around. Which may not be a bad thing – perhaps they should let it float, and then they could tow it from beach to beach for different sports. This year Auckland CBD Olympics – next year St Helier’s Invictus Games. Year after that Takapuna Masters tournaments.

        Or perhaps, going out on a limb here, perhaps that is the real answer. Just fill it with water when you’re not using it, and sink it to the bottom of the seabed. Refloat it when you next have a game on. As silly as it sounds, that’s what they do with floating dry-docks – submerge them to get under a boat, and then pump the water out of the tanks to refloat them, including with the boat in place.

        Genius, I should go patent that idea before anyone else steals it….

        1. In my best Quimby voice: “We choose to build this stadium this decade and do other things, not because they are easy but because they are hard…”

      2. I remember back in 1979-80 working on the BNZ Building on the corners of Queen , Shortland and Fort Street the basement floor had a number of holes left unfilled until we got up to a certain height and weight before they were filled to stop the whole building rising with every high tide , and if that had not happened the building would have been alot higher than what it was

    2. So you’re worried about the views which the Countdown Supermarket and attached carpark will lose? I also don’t have any problem with the Scene Apertments losing their views, they stole views from all the buildings behind them.

  8. What is it with using development to help fund other things? That’s the second time this week. Are people really happy to pay $100,000 extra for their home because someone else wants a stadium or a park&ride?

    Also, those silly visuals. Why would people be hanging out at the back of that stadium? Stairs are not that interesting. Why would that space even be open, aren’t they going to charge money for watching any games, etc?

  9. Someone should get all the bells in Auckland to toll slowly. When big pie in the sky projects start to appear it is a good sign the economic boom is coming to an end. I am calling it here. Expect a recession soon.

  10. there is a stadium on the waterfront in Wellington, Im not convinced its the optimal use of prime land as the area is deserted most of the time. Certainly not something Id recommend replicating.

    1. Exactly! Whereas the rest of the Wellingtoin waterfront has been developed for public use, and is very much something Auckland could learn from. Sadly our council seems to love privatising public spaces for short-term profit.

    2. The Wellington Stadium was the kick start to the whole Wellington waterfront development.

      The reason Wellington has a vibrant attractive waterfront is because people had the courage and vision to build a stadium there.

      A Stadium next to restaurants, bars and public transport hubs makes sense, and turns a game of rugby into a night out. This creates a vibrant public space.

      This is a great idea.

      1. ‘turns a game of rugby into a night out’

        Pretty much sums up the narrow mindness of it all! Billions of dollars and public land lost forever for a good ‘ol Rugby game.

        We have plenty of bars and restaurants in Auckland thanks, in fact we have heaps in Kingsland where eden Park is.

        I lived in Welly for a year, I never went to Westpac once, the Cake Tin is nowhere near Te Papa or the actual waterfront people visit and enjoy, you’re clutching at straws.

      2. But stadium-filling rugby games only occur at most 5 or 6 times a year. I think a better example of what you are getting at might be the Sydney Opera House, which has 5 or 6 events every day and which genuinely does attract people into the area.

      3. Except unless I’m wrong the stadium is at the other end of town from all of the bars and restaurants, with the distance from the stadium to the train station being the same as Bledisloe wharf to Wynyard Quarter. You’ve got to go the same distance again to get to Courtney place.

        I would have thought the development around shed 5, including the indoor sports facility that put more people into the wharf area across the day would have been more a start to the redevelopment of Wellington’s waterfront, in a similar way the Wynyard Quarter and increases in residential capacity around the city centre have sparked the renaissance in Auckland.

      4. The Wellington waterfront is vibrant because it is next to the CBD so on a nice day fills up with workers and visitors having lunch or going for a walk. The stadium has nothing to do with this vibrancy, it is at the other end of the waterfront and most of it’s games are at night.

      5. The problem with the “Cake Tin” is not the location, but the design. It’s far too big, and the oval design makes it bad to watch rugby/league/soccer games in. They assumed that people would continue to pack it out to watch ODI cricket matches, and they might be able to attract an AFL team to Wellington. Wrong on both counts.

        1. The timing was bit unfortunate with it’s design happening in the mid-nineties a period of sellout ODI crowds at the Basin Reserve.

          I’ve watched one league and one soccer game there and I think it is better than people give it credit for. While the seats are a bit further back, the oval shape means every seat faces the middle.

          We seem to be obsessed here with seats being close to the action, in mainland Europe it is common for big stadiums to have an athletics track around the outside, meaning there is a large gap between the field and the seats.

          1. I suggest you read the forum for Wellington Phoenix soccer fans which continually complains about being far away from the action at the Cake Tin, as compared to stadiums in Sydney and Melbourne.

          2. Not sure how seriously I’d take comments from Phoenix fans, they probably won’t be around much longer, and they are one of the teams that actually make cricket crowds at Westpac Stadium look quite big.

            I certainly wouldn’t be designing a stadium around their needs.

  11. I really don’t understand the attraction of a waterfront Stadium, and certainly not one that is slap bang in the middle of the CBD..at least the Cake Tin is hiddden away somewhat. Quay Park should be used IF we really need a Downtown Stadium, surely building over tracks is easier than digging under the sea? We need a proper waterfront plan for the wharves that benefits the whole City not just 50k once every 3 months or so for an AB’s test or U2 World Tour.

    We get 10k fans for Blues games and about 15k for Warriors games, so again…someone needs to explain the need for a new 50k stadium.

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/rugby/super-rugby/104613809/new-zealand-super-rugby-crowds-good-but-south-africa-australia-on-life-support

    Either develop on the wasteland it is Quay Park, or sell the x2 pitch at Eden Park and use money to invest more in EP.

    And whats this fixation of it being a music venue, just so we can host Ed Sheeran and Pink once every couple of years? There are plenty of venues to host large music events…not many to host mid size though which we need *cough St James Theatre cough*.

    1. Because of the location and the improved amenities at this new stadium you would likely get a lot more fans to Super/NRL/etc games than at present. Properly covered makes for a much more pleasant experience and better atmosphere. Location- easier to get to for far more people and with things to do afterwards (restaurants/bars) along with far better public transport options.

      1. Super Rugby attendances have dropped across the whole format, regardless of stadium location…read the article. South African teams are even talking about moving over to European Rugby

        Have to forward think when making these huge huge plans, will the Warriors be in existence? Will Super Rugby still be a thing? Then we really might be left with a white Elephant used for a few concerts and All Blacks games.

        Most stadia gets built due to demand, look at the English Premier League and the new (Private) stadiums they have to build. If Eden Park at 40k is empty most games, does the demand really require a 50k stadium?

        There is no goodwill here, or gift to the people of Auckland..every single person involved will be looking to make as much money as they possibly can without any consideration to the actual City. If they really want a gift, there’s a couple of Light Rail lines that need building.

        1. Eden Park isn’t a 40k stadium… it’s 50k for rugby (and expandable as seen for the RWC). It’s just in the wrong spot. Only way Eden Park could work going forward is if they could by out every house within 200m of it and have a free pass deal on noise complaints from other houses nearby.

      2. TBH, I think crowds have more to do with interest in the event than whether the stadium has a roof on it and where it is located.

        People happily go to Eden Park or Mt Smart when there is a big event on, the problem in NZ with our isolation is we don’t get many of them.

      3. Can we build a covered sound-proof stadium at Eden Park for less than the value of the land we’re surrendering to private developers?

  12. The concept of a downtown stadium i agree with, but this specific design is a pipedream that will be technically impossible in practice. I’d almost describe it as insane.

      1. Come on, engineers love to say what’s possible. And most proposals are. Whether that gets taken further is whether the people listening have wider economic, environmental and social understanding.

  13. This design certainly offsets some of the concerns I and others would have about a waterfront stadium. Think we neeed to know more details about what becomes of mt smart and eden Park. If they both became high density mixed use areas we could be in for a win. Big issue is the sentiment Eden Park people & port giving up space. Perhaps Ports of Auckland can profit from this also.

    1. I’d move Western Springs Speedway to Mt Smart. Demo the two main stands put an embankment around it and bob’s your uncle. Cricket moves to Western Springs.

  14. While I know a good number of the usual commentators here would be against it for a number of reasons (some more valid than others), I think the best thing we can do is explore the proposal further. I’ve said before that a downtown stadium will happen and if all parties engage, naysayers included, then we will get a better outcome.

  15. Where did you come up with $3B for the Stadium? The whole project is supposed to be $1.8B meaning the stadium would likely be less than $1.5B which does sound about right (remember that half of Eden Park was completely rebuilt of similar scale to this for under $400m including upgrades to the rest of the stadium so add on a bit of building inflation it sounds about right).

    I think this proposal is wonderful! No taxpayer money, get an excellent stadium out if it and save on Mt Smart. Free’s up land for housing in Sandringham too.

    1. ‘remember that half of Eden Park was completely rebuilt of similar scale to this for under $400m including upgrades to the rest of the stadium’.

      Where else in the world would you spend $400m on a stadium and then knock it down a few years later?

      1. Also, rebuilding some stands and digging into the sea and building a stadium there, after 10 years of inflation and construction cost increases is not ‘similar scale’

      2. We went cheap with the Eden Park rebuild, it took a poorly designed stadium and made it slightly less poorly designed. What we should have done was take the money offered at the time by the Govt and built a new stadium, then we wouldn’t be having this discussion today.

      3. By the time this waterfront stadium is built the new stands at Eden Park will be over 20 years old (should last 50 but this could have all been sorted if new stadium built at the time rather than the upgrade).

        With Eden Park they had to demolish multiple stands of reinforced concrete first. The wharf is a clean slate. Yes costs have gone up but a decade of inflation isn’t exactly going to be 900%! Neither is 2 decades when they eventually build it.

        Nothing wrong with the build of the new stand. Actually quite good – wouldn’t call it cheap by a long shot. But yes we should have built a new stadium at the time – do it once, do it right rather than the usual NZ way of doing a half ass job of it and spending more in the long run.

    2. They appear to be making it ‘free’ by having the council hand over all the development rights for this land. I would not call that free, as there is a significant opportunity cost from lost revenue.

        1. Losing the ugly car wharf can happen without this proposal.

          There’s no such thing as a free lunch. We pay in the end, no matter who’s providing the initial money and what they manage to negotiate. It’s our waterfront, we should decide what’s best for it based on sound reasoning, not on the bias of the particular demographic who end up being at the top of rich businesses.

          1. There are so many ugly parts of the wider city that could do with the $1.8bn injection this would provide (Quay Park, Spaghetti Junction).

            Not convinced a beautiful part of the waterfront (when not filled with cars/bananas) would be the choice instead.

  16. The Warriors regular season crowd averaged 17k in 2018. The Blues were 13k. Even if these teams attracted crowds of something up in the 30k (as the Broncos currently do) the stadium would still lack atmosphere with so many spare seats. The anchor tenants need to have regular 75% plus (41k) attendance to give that thriving atmosphere. Is this stadium too big?

    1. The Broncos used to average these sorts of crowds when they were based at ANZ Stadium, with it’s poor transport and big distance from the pitch, due to the old running track from the 1982 Commonwealth Games. I’m not sure the Warriors and Blues will grow their crowds that much with a new stadium anyway.

    2. If you demolish Eden Park you need a 60k seater stadium to even qualify to host most major events. Selling Eden Park for a smaller stadium is a great way to ensure we can’t attract big name events and that pricing for regular sellout games gets even further out of reach for most people.

        1. I am 100% certain that once the costs start to blow out, the ability to add more seats would be the first thing given the chop. “Oh, sorry, you’ve sold your prime national stadium, but the new one we’re building has an eingineering issue which means we can’t complete to spec. Thanks for the land though!”

      1. A handful of games every 25 years is no reason to build a stadium that will usually be at 1/3 capacity. Sport is mostly about TV now.
        Build a stadium that will usually be full and Aucklanders will pack it out.
        25000 seats would be easily enough.

    3. An appropriately designed enclosed rectangular stadium can feel atmospheric even at 1/4 capacity, and mind-blowing at full – Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane comes to mind. Eden Park needs to be 90% full to have any sort of atmosphere, and even then it struggles.

      1. This is rubbish. The biggest problem with Eden Park’s atmosphere has been the quality of the sport on offer. Plenty of close Blues games this year were great watches right up until the last ten minutes when we started losing. No one cared about the ‘atmosphere’ when they were winning every game in the season.

          1. Yea I remember the complaints about the ground during those two massive ODIs during the CWC, or the game against Wales a few years back with full singing in the stands. Could barely concentrate on the action I was so mad about having to be in Eden Park.

  17. Lmao if you think the residents of Eden Park are going to be chill with a permanent high-density housing development and won’t object the hell out of it being consented.

    1. This is exactly what we could have in Auckland’s waterfront. We might have to wait for the next council for it to progress though – today’s council is dominated by property developers who see public spaces as fair game for a quick profit.

  18. I have no idea why Council would want to do a deal with the Consortium – what do they bring? All the land is either owned or controlled by Council, the Consortium control nothing. If Council want the services of any of the consortium members they could pay them. And this proposal is not ‘free’ – the port would lose a significant amount of income per year, or would have to move. And then there is the lost opportunity of developing the rest of the land around the wharves and Eden Park. Finally, zero transparency to the whole deal.

    And it’s a stupid place to put a stadium.

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