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Eden Park's $270m upgrade close to confirmed
By Jared Savage

The $270m option for Eden Park is a scaled down version of this artist's impression of the revamped stadium.

A deal to confirm funding for a $270 million upgrade of Eden Park could be announced as early as this week, following a secret meeting between key players.

The announcement would end months of concern over whether the revamp would be finished in time for the Rugby World Cup in 2011.

The Herald on Sunday understands planners prefer a $270m version of the "legacy" design over a $197m option, because the legacy design already has resource consent.

A well-placed Eden Park source said representatives from Auckland City Council, Auckland Regional Council and Eden Park Trust Board met on Friday - the first time since the Cup hosting rights were announced more than two years ago.

Auckland Mayor John Banks confirmed the meeting and said he would talk with new Sports Minister Clayton Cosgrove next week.

He planned to speak formally with Prime Minister Helen Clark once he had "a deal stacked" to hold the "Government's feet to the fire".

Banks believed a deal could be struck soon if the Government invested $200m, the Eden Park Trust Board $10m and $20m each from the ASB Trust, Auckland City and ARC.

The ratepayers don't want to commit money into the grandstand. We're strapped for cash," said Banks.

"We need to hold the Government's feet to the fire over this. New Zealand is the big winner in this, not just Auckland."

The source said the key parties, including Eden Park Redevelopment Board, were keen on the $270m option as resubmitting plans for resource consent would put construction back months.

Council planners have made it clear the $197m design does not meet resource consent granted for the original $325m plan last December.

An announcement on funding could be made this week.

"Everyone needs to be singing from the same song sheet so we can get the thing done," the source said.

Adam Feeley, chief executive of Eden Park Redevelopment Board, said two sets of designs were finished last week and could be signed off shortly.

One cost $197m. Feeley would not reveal the other price, but he hoped it would all be signed off "so everyone could have a Christmas holiday".

Funding had been discussed individually with potential stakeholders, as some were not comfortable discussing investments while other contributors were in the same room.

Rugby World Cup plans took a major hit when Banks was elected. His promise to pull all ratepayer funding from the Eden Park upgrade was strongly backed.

He opposed spending $50m promised by the previous council - committed on the proviso the ARC matched the contribution - but supported spending $21 million on infrastructure around the stadium.

Mike Lee, chairman of the ARC, was unavailable for comment but has previously stated no ratepayer money would go into the stadium upgrade.

Instead, he wants to spend public money to improve public transport for the millions of international visitors.

Feeley also said Fletchers could be confirmed as the building contractor within days once the cost negotiations were completed.

However, industry insiders have questioned why the construction giants bidding to build Eden Park were given only three weeks to tender for the most important job in the country.

Two of the three contenders pulled out, leaving Fletcher Construction with the huge responsibility by default.

A well-placed construction source said it was almost impossible to meet the 14-day timeframe for such an important project, so Mainzeal and Hawkins pulled out in protest.

Expressions of interest were sought in September and the shortlist made in November. The process was run by project manager Warren Warfield, of Auckland consultants RCP, who replaced engineering firm Beca when former Sports Minister Trevor Mallard ordered the positions be re-tendered.

Warfield did not return calls but has defended the deadlines, saying no bid was favoured and the process was more than adequate.