Sunday September 17, 2006
By Dylan Cleaver
Auckland Cricket is close to formalising an arrangement with the Eden Park Trust Board (EPTB) over moving from its home of the past 103 years - but finding somewhere new is proving difficult.
Eden Park is set to undergo a $320 million facelift in time for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, and Auckland Cricket's home on the outer oval will be a casualty of redevelopment. International cricket will still be played at Eden Park, on the rejuvenated oval.
"We are in negotiations with the Eden Park Trust Board," Auckland Cricket chairman Brent King said. "We're seeking a way in which we can continue to work with the EPTB and have a ground that's appropriate for Auckland Cricket."
Finding a new venue is easier said than done. Feasibility reports have been compiled on several possible sites, including University grounds at the Merton Rd campus, Melville Park behind the Teachers' College in Epsom, Western Springs and North Harbour Stadium at Albany.
"Before we can get to that stage we need to make sure we have this arrangement with the EPTB and I can't pre-empt that. Their position has been somewhat altered this week with the announcement that the Government is reviewing other options," King said. "All this is contingent on Eden Park becoming the centre for Rugby World Cup 2011.
"We are looking at a number of grounds and like anything in life they have benefits and detriments. Some of them are perfect grounds but poorly located. All these things are incredibly testing for everybody. Everyone has their opinions on what is most important."
On the face of it, Albany seems the most logical location. The back oval at North Harbour Stadium has been used for one-day matches in the past, it has established infrastructure and, despite the long haul for fans, is easily accessible and well served for parking.
North Shore City has also made it clear that it would be keen to host the major association, as is stadium chief executive Brendan O'Connor.
"We have been in a dialogue with Auckland Cricket for the greater part of the year," O'Connor said. "They're not just talking to us, they're talking to other potential venues as well. It hasn't got to the formal negotiation point yet."
Internal politics, however, are likely to get in the way on two fronts: Auckland Cricket would be reluctant to move out of 'Auckland'; and Auckland Cricket would rather use the existing ground staff and turf managers, something that is likely to be impossible if they shift across the bridge.
There has been no indication when a decision will be made.