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Francesca Rudkin: Does Auckland need another stadium?

Author
Francesca Rudkin,
Publish Date
Sun, 11 Feb 2024, 10:01am
Artist's impression of the proposed Auckland Waterfront Stadium. Photo / Supplied
Artist's impression of the proposed Auckland Waterfront Stadium. Photo / Supplied

Francesca Rudkin: Does Auckland need another stadium?

Author
Francesca Rudkin,
Publish Date
Sun, 11 Feb 2024, 10:01am

The question of whether Auckland needs a waterfront or downtown stadium has always been an easy question for me to answer.

No, Auckland doesn’t need another stadium. We already have quite a few stadiums with different capacities catering to various our needs. There are a lot of other more important things Auckland needs; less traffic congestion, better public transport, a better waste water system, more schools, more housing, a massive wet and wild Waterslide park - you know, the important stuff.

A stadium, in the heart of the city is a nice to have, right?

But you know what, how nice would it be to have.

Sitting on the glistening shores of the Waitemata Harbour, the CBD should be the pride of Auckland City. Instead, it’s too often the subject of complaints about safety, policing and access as Queen St transforms into a shared space. A lot of work has gone into enticing people back into the city centre; the Britomart complex, an upgraded Quay St, the impressive Wynyard Quarter.

We know if you create interesting spaces – theatres, stadiums, family friendly open spaces, shopping precincts, entertainment and hospo areas – and make them accessible – the people will come and we’ll get a world class, vibrant city with all the economic benefits that go along with that.

So for this reason alone, I say bring it on.

However, a city-based stadium in Auckland is like a lot of infrastructure projects in New Zealand – spoken about for decades but rarely seen. We thought about it in 2006 when Trevor Mallard thought it would be nice to have one for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, instead of spending money on upgrading Eden Park. In 2017 then Mayor Phil Goff commissioned a $1million feasibility report - which he was then reluctant to release. It turns out stadiums don’t turn much of a profit.

We’ve had architects, various consortiums and sports team owners present their visions for a revamped Auckland waterfront. There are probably a few students out there who’ve created some pretty good-looking Auckland waterfront designs for a school study. So far they’ve all been pipedreams; a teaser to get the public on side, a push to get politicians to act.

Yesterday a new vison for Auckland Quay Park was released to the public by a consortium headed by former Warriors Chief Executive Jim Doyle. It includes not just an impressive looking 50,000-seater stadium with views to Rangitoto (is anyone else concerned about the wind swirling around in there?) but also hotels, bars and restaurants, residential apartments and public spaces and parks.

Their vision is impressive – who wouldn’t want it over an old railway yard? It's good to see local iwi who own the land on board, and with the majority of the investment coming from the private sector, input from the council and government is thought to be less than what may have to be spent on maintaining Eden Park in the future.

It’s a compelling case and vision. We will just have to wait and see if anyone is brave enough to commit to it. I hope they do.

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