|Last thing Auckland needs is Trojan horse full of future debt
Friday November 10, 2006
There was a flash of sanity from Christchurch yesterday.
In response to Finance Minister Michael Cullen's veiled threat to the north that the Rugby World Cup final might end up at Jade Stadium if Aucklanders didn't fall in behind the Government's waterfront folly, Jade Stadium boss Bryan Pearson said no thanks.
"We don't have a need for a stadium of that size and we need to think what is right for the city," he told the Christchurch paper, the Press.
A 60,000-seat stadium "is well beyond the needs of this city and is beyond our most optimistic projections".
Now wouldn't it have been great if Auckland had a leader or two with their feet as sensibly grounded in the real world?
Just on a year ago, the Eden Park Trust Board produced two main options for upgrading the ground in time for the 2011 World Cup. There was a $45 million option, which included a large temporary stand above the existing west stand, and a $100 million plan which involved replacing the ageing south and southwest stands.
In less than 12 months, the Government is now proposing a grand monument on the waterfront which Eden Park's advisers are claiming could cost more than $1 billion.
All for a game of footie, to borrow Ports of Auckland chief executive Geoff Vazey's refrain.
As consultant engineer Garry Law asked in this paper on Wednesday, does Auckland need a stadium of this size or cost?
Eden Park triggered this cost explosion by quickly eclipsing their earlier plans with a gold-plated $320 million "heritage" revamp. Yesterday, they went for broke with a $385 million "royal" edition. The heritage, they emphasise, is of glass and steel. What no one talks about is the heritage of debt and depreciation we will be saddling future Aucklanders with.
Sport Minister Trevor Mallard will today unveil his proposal.
Before being seduced by all the glitter and by his flattery about Auckland's destiny as a world-class city, we can only hope our leaders do as the Christchurch stadium boss did, and first ask: Is the proposal right for our city?
We should also think long and hard over whether, if we can provide an acceptable venue for $45 million, we should be shooting for something which might end up costing $1 billion?
The view seems to be that taking the temporary option will mark us out as cheapskates. But in truth, temporary stadiums are all the vogue.
For the 2012 London Olympics, the 80,000-seat main stadium will predominantly consist of temporary seating. After the games, it will be deconstructed to leave a "legacy stadium" of just 25,000 seats.
"We are building facilities to match future use and a viable business case," David Higgins, chief executive of the Olympic Delivery Authority, told the Guardian newspaper.
"Some major events leave a fabulous stadium but with huge ongoing operating costs. We've said all along: No white elephants."
Similarly, across the Atlantic in the rich city of Chicago, Mayor Richard Daley's bid to host the 2016 Olympics hinges on a collapsible 95,000-seat stadium which, when dismantled, will leave a 10,000-seat amphitheatre for concerts, cultural shows and track and field events.
Last July, soccer World Cup sponsor adidas built for $9.6 million a 10,000-seat temporary stadium in downtown Berlin, complete with turf and VIP sections, to house fans who couldn't attend the actual cup final in the Olympiastadion across town. There were huge television screens at each end. At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, one of the highlights was the 10,000-seat temporary volleyball stadium on Bondi Beach.
Worldwide, there's a growing appreciation that one-off extravaganzas are sometimes best in temporary surrounds.
Here in Auckland, the America's Cup Village was a good example.
It's hardly a new concept. Circuses have been carrying their own tents around for centuries.
Getting back to the rugby, it's not as though we even have to create a whole new temporary stadium.
Eden Park has already said it has a $45 million solution based on the existing ground. Across the harbour at Albany, North Harbour Stadium would undoubtedly be interested in counter-bidding.
Who knows, maybe adidas could be persuaded to ship their scaffolding south or the London Olympics to test their temporary seating in Auckland first.
Today, Mr Mallard comes bearing gifts.
Let's make certain it's not a Trojan horse, full of future debt and woes, before we accept it.