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What will Rugby World Cup cost NZ?
Sunday December 3, 2006
By Dylan Cleaver

One of the first things the New Zealand Rugby Union did when it won the rights to host the 2011 Rugby World Cup was to trumpet the economic benefits for the country.

But at what cost?

The answer to that is close to $700 million - and rising.

In an effort to bring their facilities into the modern world, the management of Eden Park, North Harbour Stadium, Jade Stadium, Carisbrook and Okara Park plan major changes.

The combined cost of the projects is expected to rise above three-quarters of a billion dollars.

Few would argue against the notion that New Zealand's stadiums have been a large-scale embarrassment on the world stage - with a few exceptions - and that they badly need a spruce-up.

At the same time, few would have imagined so many dollars would be thrown into sporting cathedrals.

The exhaustively documented Eden Park redevelopment will lead the way, with the price for its optimum design to extend the ASB Stand and replace the Eastern Terraces, South Stand and West Stand with a three-tiered superstructure reaching $385m.

North Harbour Stadium won't press ahead with its $225m refit unless Eden Park fails to find funding. Regardless, it has some as-yet-unannounced plans requiring a significant injection of capital.

At the moment Albany is positioning itself as a less financially risky proposition than its cross-town rival.

Chief executive Brendon O'Connor has been working through figures over the past week that would see North Harbour faced with just a $95m funding shortfall compared with the $225m still needed by the Eden Park Trust Board.

O'Connor has calculated $100m coming from money committed by Rugby World Cup 2011 Ltd, and lotteries and trusts grants. Added to that is an expected $31m in commercial revenue from naming rights, corporate packages and catering contracts.

"That leaves us with a shortfall of $95m, which is substantially less than Eden Park," O'Connor said. "That figure doesn't include debt of which we could feasibly accommodate $20m. That brings the shortfall down even further to $75m."

But it's not just Auckland's stadiums that require massive funding. From the top to the bottom of the country, projects are being mooted and approved which need massive capital injections.

Jade Stadium in July announced a four-year, $60m revamp that will increase seating by 7000 to 43,000.

Jade's ugly and uncomfortable No 1, No 2 and No 3 stands will be demolished and replaced with a three-tiered East Stand.

The funding will be a mix of private and public monies.

Chief executive Bryan Pearson said at the time that, "the catalyst for the redevelopment of the east side of Jade Stadium is the Rugby World Cup 2011".

Perhaps the most radical revamp could occur further south where dilapidated Carisbrook is set to be replaced by a 'new Carisbrook' in Dunedin's north. Again, the motivation is to be ready for the World Cup in 2011 with the expectation of hosting some major games.

The University of Otago will be a major financial partner in the multipurpose stadium, costing between $150m and $180m, as it is a likely home for the School of Physical Education.

The Carisbrook Stadium Trust chief executive Malcolm Farry said plans could include capacity for up to 32,000 and for a roof, although that would depend on the cost.

At the other end of the country, Okara Park in Whangarei is set for a major facelift, if approved, to the tune of $40m that would include $13m of ratepayers' money.

A new stand would also house commercial and retail space.

Northland Rugby Union chairman Wayne Peters told the Northern Advocate the retail aspect would guarantee the stadium's financial viability. "Projections are that the retail and office space alone would generate about $2 million a year," he said.

Okara Park is expected to host no more than one World Cup game.

There are several smaller projects in the wind. The Bay of Plenty Rugby Union are understood to want both their major venues, Bluechip Stadium in Tauranga and Rotorua International Stadium, for World Cup consideration.

The Tauranga venue would need at least a further $6m to fulfil probable criteria requirements.

The NZRU is hoping to set down criteria for World Cup stadiums early next year.

The normal Super 14 rules will apply, such as quality changing facilities for players and officials, a percentage of covered seats, multiple access points around the ground, greater broadcasting facilities and an exceptional playing surface.

It is unclear what further criteria will be placed on grounds but they will be stringently policed.

The NZRU policy might rule out a cheap, temporary refit of Eden Park as some disgruntled local body politicians are seeking in the wake of their waterfront baby being sunk.