The last time there was a debate on the waterfront stadium, New Zealand was in Rugby World Cup 2011 fever and a 60,000 seat stadium was needed. Through the ‘decision making’ process an upgrade to Eden Park became the default choice, including an upgrade to the surrounding infrastructure (streets, train station etc.) and temporary seating for this one-off event. Other than a lack of forward planning by late goers to the opening RWC game, things worked pretty well (fan trail, trains, etc.). The stadium has resurfaced, raised by mayoral hopefuls, one can only assume because they believe it is an issue that Aucklanders, a. care about and b. largely agree on (unlike the transport problems or the price of houses or the rate increases or the power of the mayoral office or …). Let’s consider some of the issues in the debate.
As stadium, does Eden Park, work? Can you get in and out without too much fuss? Can you find your seat? Can you get eats and drinks? Do you get an unobstructed view of the game?
Is public transport to Eden Park inefficient? Consider the bus service from the North Shore (which would continue to be required for a downtown stadium), or trains from out West, or trains from East and South once the inner city loop is in place?
Since when did Aucklanders opt for public transport anyway – will it be easier to park downtown than in the streets around Eden Park?
Are there sufficient eateries and ‘drinkaries’ around Eden Park (from Dominion Rd to Kingsland) for pre- and post-game activities?
Aucklanders don’t have a good record of attending winter sports in stadiums (except for the 2 or 3 AB tests), will this change with a waterfront stadium? Due to the general lack of interest in attending winter sport, presumably a new stadium would have to support ODI and T20 cricket (oh and test cricket without the regional facility plan – see below), so will oval sports fans still bemoan the inadequacies of a mutli-purpose stadium?
Will this improve the chance of getting agreement from Auckland Cricket, the Warriors and Speedway to the Regional Facilities Plan? Do we assume this would be a requirement to make it ‘viable’? But at what cost? Jim Doyle says they are good to go (but, what do the fans say), seems Regional Facilities don’t see cricket their (but where will the big T20s and ODIs go – Western Springs big enough), people talk about soccer (what soccer?).
Is building a multi-hectare, multi-storey facility that blocks general access to the waterfront in keeping with what appears to be a general strategy to open the waterfront up to general use? See Queens Wharf, the Viaduct, North Wharf and Silo Park for recent examples.
Can we compare Auckland to Melbourne, as is often done (NZ’ers appear to have a fixation with being the same as Oz?!?)? The centre of Melbourne is quite different – size, transport structure, topoology (hills, rivers etc.)., Melburnians are avid live sports attendees, can you say the same about Aucklander’s? Does 1.8km (the difference between the ‘centre’ of Melbourne to the MCG and the centre of Auckland to Eden Park) really make a difference?
Have alternatives been considered for the cost (or a fraction of it) to support alternative spectator activities? Outdoor theatre (was the outdoor globe successful?), outdoor music festival venue (how many attend Laneways, BDO etc?), stadium seating to support water events (America’s Cup, Volvo round the world, Red Bull Air Race etc.?), just maintain Eden Park?
If you are lucky enough to have attended a sports event in Wellington or Melbourne, then you have a sense of the simple benefits that a downtown stadium offers to the privileged sports fan. When considering civil works in Auckland, investment opportunities and the challenges Auckland as a growing city faces, is a waterfront stadium a priority?