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Temporary seating proposal ire
Sunday February 18, 2007
By Dylan Cleaver

The already messy Eden Park saga could get a whole lot more confusing before it becomes clearer.

Minister of Economic Development (MED) Trevor Mallard is expected to announce on Tuesday funding for an upgrade of Eden Park in time for the 2011 World Cup that will be calculated on the costs required for temporary seating.

However, the Herald on Sunday understands that the ground's governors, the Eden Park Trust Board (EPTB), could reject any caveats placed on the funding. This raises the spectre of marquee games earmarked for New Zealand's most historic arena shifting to another ground, probably North Harbour Stadium.

"There's a feeling of 'not at our house'," an Eden Park insider said in response to a temporary-seating option.

EPTB chief executive John Alexander has said that he would not comment until after the Government has officially made a decision, however board of trustees chairman Warwick Nicoll said: "The trustees have always been unanimously in support of the redevelopment of Eden Park for the Rugby World Cup."

Temporary seating, however, would definitely not come under the category of "redevelopment".

The trustees' job, as stipulated by the Eden Park Trust Board Act, is to act in the best interests of Auckland Rugby and Auckland Cricket.

Preparing the ground for the World Cup will cause massive disruption for cricket and rugby over multiple seasons and there is a growing feeling that if there is no "legacy" at the end of it, then it's hard to argue it's in the best interests of Auckland Cricket and Auckland Rugby to host World Cup games.

Installation and removal of temporary seating is not as quick or simple a job as the term "temporary seating" suggests. There is speculation as to the "hooks", such as a change in the governance of Eden Park, any funding will come with. Dialogue between the MED and EPTB has been virtually non-existent to date.

Should the Government pledge, if as expected, a significantly smaller contribution than the $225m shortfall for the trust board's preferred fully enclosed option, then the only three options left for Eden Park is to raise the remainder of the shortfall themselves, accept temporary seating and the fact there will be no "legacy", or reject the offer and remain as status quo but without the prospect of hosting the biggest sporting event to be held in New Zealand.

The New Zealand Rugby Union would not comment, but the Herald on Sunday has been told they are prepared to sign off on a temporary-seated stadium if it is the only option.

Auckland Cricket president Brent King said his organisation remained in a state of flux.

"We are keenly waiting on the Government's decision, as we have been in the past, as to how much money they will give and on what basis," he said.

"Then we'll make some decisions about whether we'll stay here [Eden Park] permanently, move out for a short time, or make a new home elsewhere."