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Downgrade tipped for Eden Park's World Cup upgrade
Tuesday February 13, 2007

The 'Rolls-Royce' upgrade of Eden Park appears unlikely to happen.

The $385 million plan to redevelop Eden Park appears set to be scaled back to a more modest version featuring temporary seating for rugby fans - sparking concerns the upgrade may not meet the expectations of the International Rugby Board.

TV3 reported last night that the Government is backing a markedly cheaper option costing between $50 million and $100 million, following advice from a visiting consultant.

While the seating area for dignitaries will still be upgraded, temporary seating will be used to create the 60,000-seat showcase required for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Rugby World Cup Minister Trevor Mallard last night refused to be drawn on the subject.

"I'm not commenting on speculation. However, I am prepared to confirm that no decisions have been made. In fact, the matter has not yet been considered by Cabinet nor a Cabinet committee."

He expected to make an announcement by the end of the month.

"The Government remains committed to having a stadium of the quality required for a World Cup final and reflecting what was promised in the bid which won NZ the hosting rights.

"It is no secret that international expert consultants were asked to report on upgrade options for Eden Park - including the existing designs and other combinations, utilising a mix of temporary and permanent facilities. This was announced in December."

National Party sports spokesman Murray McCully said he was concerned Eden Park had consents for an upgrade it might no longer be able to afford and might have to go through another long consent-hearing process.

"There has been enough stuffing around on this thing already. We've already lost one World Cup because we couldn't get our act together," he said, referring to New Zealand's losing co-hosting rights for the Rugby World Cup in Australia.

"It is very important that we don't create uncertainty in people's minds about the capacity to deliver on anything, especially the venue for the final."

Mr McCully believed other countries would be following closely what was happening in New Zealand "and if we stumble they'll certainly put their hands up". (Japan made a strong bid to host the 2011 cup.)

John Alexander, CEO of the Eden Park Trust Board, said last night that it was continuing to work with the Government. "We are not ... prepared to speculate on any outcome."

Jock Hobbs, chairman of Rugby New Zealand 2011, said the Government review process was continuing and his group would not comment until that was completed.

Independent commissioners last month granted resource consent to the Eden Park board for a $320 million upgrade of the historic sports ground.

The consent is to build new stands in place of the terraces and south stand. It does not include consent for the "full" $385m option that includes covered seating around the ground.

But the redevelopment is still effectively in limbo until the Government makes its decision on funding.

The trust board has $160 million committed to the upgrade, but faces a shortfall of $225 million to fund the full option.

Mr Mallard had previously backed a $500 million-plus stadium on the Auckland waterfront but the Cabinet abandoned the plans in the face of widespread opposition.