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Debt-ridden Eden Park's future in doubt
Saturday November 11, 2006
By Patrick Gower

Eden Park trustees have spent $6 million planning an upgrade for the 2011 Rugby World Cup

The demise of Eden Park would result in its bones being picked clean so debts and demolition costs could be met.

The Eden Park Trust Board admits the sustainability of the park would be in doubt if Auckland Rugby shifted to the Government's preferred waterfront stadium, rendering much of its $150 million asset base useless.

The park is carrying $20 million worth of debt and the cost of the huge demolition job would run into millions.

Board chief executive John Alexander estimated the 9.44ha site would be worth $35 million, and wondered if anything would be left over should it be sold.

"There are no pots of money here," he said. "Once you pay off the liabilities and demolition costs I would suggest there's very little."

Eden Park is owned by the board, which runs it on behalf of Auckland Rugby and Auckland Cricket.

Mr Alexander said the board remained hopeful that a redeveloped Eden Park would host the final in 2011.

However, in the worst case scenario, legislation allowed for the sale of the park if the three parties agreed.

Mr Alexander said the trust's duty was to act in the best interests of the two codes, which could turn out to be property development to get the best return.

He said the spectre of selling off the park was "too terrible to contemplate - it is like asking someone: 'What are you going to do when you die?"'

He said they could try to find a buyer for assets such as the pitch itself, worth $4 million and with 30 years of life left.

Mr Alexander said the contracts for most corporate box-holders and carpark owners rolled over in 2010 so they would not be affected.

He said $6 million had been spent planning the new Eden Park stadium since New Zealand won the Rugby World Cup bid. If the waterfront stadium was to go ahead, they would have to consider trying to recoup this from Rugby New Zealand 2011.

It was only a "perception" that money from the sale of Eden Park could go to the new stadium. It would be over to the two codes to decide what they would do with any proceeds.

Ken Baguley, chairman of the Auckland Rugby Union, said the union's board had not yet discussed the code's future at the park.

It had only received "one phone call" from Rugby World Cup Minister Trevor Mallard, "and you would tend to think if you were going to build a stadium in Auckland, the first person you would talk to would be Auckland Rugby".

Mr Baguley said the board wanted to gain at least $20 million from any sale of the Eden Park land so it could set up a training ground and administration block.

Auckland Cricket chairman Brent King said selling the park was not on the agenda.

"This country continually loses its heritage. Daily we blow things off the map."