Sta­dium worry springs up

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - By BEN ROGERS AND JESS ETHERIDGE

A $12 MIL­LION vi­sion to turn Western Springs into an in­ter­na­tional cricket hub could leave Auck­land with another white ele­phant, a city leader says.

A $30m plan to re­vamp the city’s sta­di­ums has been mooted.

Western Springs would get a ma­jor $12m makeover to turn it into a ‘‘bou­tique in­ter­na­tional cricket sta­dium’’ as speed­way looks for a new home – likely to be Mt Smart Sta­dium in Pen­rose.

The New Zealand War­riors could also be mov­ing from their Mt Smart home of 19 years.

The team looks set to move to ei­ther Eden Park or QBE Sta­dium on the North Shore.

The Western Springs up­grade will not hap­pen un­til the money is ring-fenced in June 2015 un­der the Long Term-Plan.

It is also sub­ject to ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween Re­gional Fa­cil­i­ties Auck­land – Auck­land Coun­cil’s sta­dium man­age­ment arm – and Auck­land Speed­way.

But coun­cil­lor John Wat­son says he fears the in­ner-city sta­dium could be­come re­dun­dant.

He says Western Springs could be­come a white ele­phant – an ex­pen­sive and sel­dom-used as­set.

Auck­land com­petes with Hamil­ton, Tau­ranga and Wellington for test cricket and has hosted just two in­ter­na­tional tests since 2008.

‘‘At a time of great belt tight­en­ing . . . we’re rather strangely be­ing told we can af­ford a third cricket sta­dium,’’ Wat­son says.

Auck­land has this year strug­gled to find mil­lions of dol­lars in sav­ings in or­der to keep rates low and re­tain com­mu­nity fa­cil­i­ties.

Wat­son be­lieves the $12m price tag could bal­loon and is du­bi­ous about the in­for­ma­tion Re­gional Fa­cil­i­ties has pro­vided.

‘‘I just don’t be­lieve un­for­tu­nately.’’

Auck­land Cricket chief ex­ec­u­tive Mark Cameron says the sta­dium will be shared by cricket and con­certs over sum­mer.

‘‘We would still be play­ing cricket on [fields] one and two at Eden Park so it would be the odd test match or do­mes­tic twenty20,’’ Cameron says.

‘‘It won’t be ex­clu­sively a cricket venue and our abil­ity to use it in the sum­mer months when the con­certs are on would be limited.’’

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Cameron hopes the up­grade will bring more in­ter­na­tional test cricket to Auck­land and that there will also be a chance to host lo­cal do­mes­tic matches on the new ground be­cause they are strug­gling to find venues for high per­for­mance games.

There could be scope to host Hedley Howarth matches or other lo­cal cricket but most of the clubs al­ready have their own venues, Cameron says.

A Re­gional Fa­cil­i­ties Auck­land spokesman says Eden Park would re­main the home of Auck­land cricket.

The up­grade will ‘‘en­able the cost­ef­fec­tive host­ing’’ of tests and Western Springs’ fi­nan­cial re­turns will come from test cricket, con­certs, food fes­ti­vals and AFL, he says.

The $12m price tag is not ex­pected to bal­loon, he says, be­cause the bud­get in­cludes a con­tin­gency fund.

The ‘‘low-cost de­vel­op­ment’’ will see Auck­land host a higher num­ber of tests than has been pos­si­ble in the past, he says.

The Long Term-Plan, in­clud­ing the $30m sta­dium de­vel­op­ment pro­posal, goes out for pub­lic feed­back in Jan­uary.

A decision on fund­ing for Western Springs is due June 2015.

Photo: PETER MEECHAM

Sta­dium’s fu­ture: A $12 mil­lion up­grade to turn Western Springs Sta­dium into Auck­land’s third test cricket pitch has been mooted.

Hope­ful: Auck­land Cricket chief ex­ec­u­tive Mark Cameron.

Con­cerned: Coun­cil­lor John Wat­son.

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