Mt Smart’s future in limbo?
Predictions that Mt Smart Stadium could be consigned to the scrapheap after Auckland becomes a supercity are being rubbished.
Recent reports have suggested the future of the Auckland Regional Council-owned ground might be in doubt, with the council set to be scrapped after the 2010 local body elections.
But chairman Mike Lee doubts Mt Smart, which is home to the New Zealand Warriors and hosts many community sports events, is going anywhere.
“Mt Smart will still have a major role.
“I can’t see any other suitable league and athletics stadium in central Auckland and Mt Smart is at the epicentre of the Auckland region.
“To be honest we’re under pressure to develop another field that would enable a lot more league to be played there.”
Mr Lee says even if a future super-council wanted to get rid of the 25-hectare stadium, it’s not that simple.
“In the most unlikely possibility of no sport being played there, it is still a regional park. You can’t just sell it.”
The park, which is run as a separate business unit of the council, took a financial hit last year when it lost $1.79 million after hosting David Beckham’s LA Galaxy side in a match against the Oceania All Stars.
Only about 16,000 fans showed up for the match, with many more needed at the 30,000 capacity ground, to break even.
The financial loss saw council parks manager Lance Vervoort and Mt Smart Stadium group manager John Lynch resign.
Mr Lee says a new committee that includes himself, former Kiwi league player and events promoter Dean Lonergan and council deputy chairman Michael Barnett, will now directly oversee Mt Smart’s operations.
“The Beckham affair brought to light some things. It became clear to us things could be run a hell of a lot better.”
New Zealand Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah says the club has no intention of moving to another venue any time soon.
“We are locked into a 15-year licence agreement.
“The size of the venue puts a bit of pressure on for finals, but it certainly suits what we need. It’s the ideal venue for us.”
The agreement with the council still has nine years to run.
But Mr Scurrah admits the changing structure of Auckland’s local body politics throws up a few questions.
“We’d be very keen to understand what the future of the venue is.”
Whatever the future of the stadium, Mr Lee can guarantee one thing.
“Mt Smart is going to be around a lot longer than the ARC.”