Stadium worry springs up
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.’’
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.
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.