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Sponsor could rename Eden Park
5:00AM Tuesday December 18, 2007
By Mathew Dearnaley

The upgrade will cost over $240 million.

Auckland's hallowed home of rugby could be renamed if a sponsor is prepared to dig deep enough to close a $28.5 million shortfall for a $240.5 million upgrade of Eden Park.

The park's redevelopment board says it is "very confident" of plugging the gap, even though the Auckland Regional Council last night kicked a funding request for touch.

That followed Crown approval for an enhanced design to turn Eden Park into a 60,000-seat stadium to host the 2011 Rugby World Cup, and the Cabinet's reconfirmation yesterday of a grant of $190 million.

As well as confirming $10 million from the Rugby Union, the redevelopment board said it had an agreement in principle for "at least" $12 million from the Eden Park Trust Board.

It said the gap did not take account of a potentially higher contribution from the trust board, possible payments by the Auckland city and regional councils, and sponsorships.

Redevelopment board chairman John Waller said he could not rule out a name change for Eden Park if a sponsor was prepared to pay enough.

Board CEO Adam Feeley emphasised there was no proposal under discussion, but the stadium was redesigned large enough to boost its commercial value to a sponsor.

Mr Waller said the redevelopment had national and regional benefits, and he hoped the final mix of financial contributions would reflect that.

ARC chairman Mike Lee said last week his council had no intention of contributing, preferring to concentrate on improving public transport for the rugby cup.

But it stopped short last night of declining a request for $21 million, deciding to allow officers time for "careful consideration" before reporting to councillors in the New Year.

Mr Feeley was optimistic: "We take that as an encouraging sign they are still willing to consider the proposal."

Although Auckland City says it is prepared to pay $20 million only for infrastructure outside Eden Park, Mr Feeley said his board also hoped to persuade it to contribute directly to the redevelopment budget.

A two-level east stand to replace the existing terraces and a "bowl" of open seating where the Panasonic Stand will be demolished would leave Auckland with an enduring post-cup legacy.

But Auckland Mayor John Banks said he had to keep faith with ratepayers and not contribute directly to the park. At the same time, his council supported the request to the regional council for direct funding, half of which would be borne by Auckland City residents.