Arena plan gets sup­port

The Hutt News - - FRONT PAGE - KATARINA WIL­LIAMS

A new 10,000-seat in­door arena near West­pac Sta­dium could help Welling­ton em­u­late the suc­cess of Mel­bourne’s sport and en­ter­tain­ment precinct, sta­dium boss Shane Har­mon says.

May­ors from the Welling­ton re­gion took a bold step on Tues­day, com­mis­sion­ing a fea­si­bil­ity re­port into the pro­posed ven­ture that would help at­tract big in­ter­na­tional acts to per­form in the cap­i­tal.

The re­port will be driven by Welling­ton Re­gional Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Agency (Wreda), which will as­sess is­sues such as land ac­qui­si­tion, arena de­sign, fund­ing and lo­ca­tion.

Welling­ton Mayor Justin Lester claimed there was a clear pref­er­ence for the fa­cil­ity to be built near the sta­dium.

Two nearby sites were be­ing con­sid­ered, but their ex­act lo­ca­tions were be­ing kept un­der wraps, while a third op­tion of build­ing the arena in Pe­tone was also on the ta­ble.

West­pac Sta­dium chief ex­ec­u­tive Shane Har­mon felt build­ing an ad­ja­cent in­door fa­cil­ity would ‘‘com­ple­ment the sta­dium re­ally well’’.

He pointed to Mel­bourne, which has Rod Laver Arena (15,000 seats), AAMI Park (30,050 seats) and Hisense Arena (10,000 seats) in the same area, as a good lead to fol­low.

‘‘I think Mel­bourne and Olympic Parks and their precinct is prob­a­bly the prime ex­am­ple of a large num­ber of sport­ing fa­cil­i­ties and are­nas within close prox­im­ity of each other.’’

The precinct is home to a num­ber of pro­fes­sional sports teams, in­clud­ing rugby league’s Mel­bourne Storm, foot­ball’s Mel­bourne Vic­tory and Mel­bourne City, and Su­per Rugby’s Rebels.

‘‘Any­thing that goes to­wards repli­cat­ing that model would be an ad­van­tage ... cer­tainly from a sta­dium per­spec­tive, we would welcome an arena within our precinct,’’ Har­mon said.

He be­lieved the arena could also cre­ate re­tail op­por­tu­ni­ties for the area, in­clud­ing new restau­rants and bars.

‘‘The big im­prove­ment would be cre­at­ing a precinct around the sta­dium. While we’re ob­vi­ously down­town and close to pub­lic trans­port, there are no fa­cil­i­ties in the im­me­di­ate vicin­ity.

‘‘One of the sta­dium’s ben­e­fits is that it’s so close to pub­lic trans­port and is also walking dis­tance from the city. The new arena would share that,’’ Har­mon added.

Welling­ton prop­erty de­vel­oper Ian Cas­sels, of The Welling­ton Com­pany, said he favoured a lo­ca­tion in the city cen­tre, but putting it near the sta­dium would al­low ‘‘for a cross­over of amenity’’.

‘‘I think the place you’ve got to start at is ‘How can this city be a self-re­spect­ing city with­out this [arena]?’

‘‘We need a mu­sic venue of size and abil­ity, oth­er­wise we’re not re­ally the city we think we are. We have to have one, it’s just a case of where we best put it.’’

Con­cert pro­moter Phil Sprey felt the log farm across the road from West­pac Sta­dium would be the ‘‘ideal lo­ca­tion’’, but won­dered whether the op­tion was ‘‘less vi­able’’ as a re­sult of Novem­ber’s Kaik­oura quake.

‘‘Over the rail yards would be a very good sec­ondary lo­ca­tion, pro­vided all of the shak­ing and mov­ing of trains is taken into con­sid­er­a­tion.

‘‘If they can do all that, then that would be great lo­ca­tion.’’

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