Chance to learn from ‘Caketin' experience

The Awatea St stadium is not the first in New Zealand to have followed a tortuous path to completion.

While Wellington's $130 million Westpac Stadium is held up as a great success story now, its chief executive David Gray this week recalled the difficulties in getting it off the ground in the face of scepticism following other stadium project failures.

‘‘There was a lot of pressure on us and some disbelief that we could do it.''

Fundraising consisted of borrowing $73 million from two local authorities and other sources.

Another $7 million came from community trusts and the Lottery Grants Board, and the private sector contributed $50 million. The Carisbrook Stadium Trust plans to raise $45.5 million from the private sector.

Mr Gray said private funding came from selling memberships, corporate boxes, naming rights, signage and ‘‘anything else we could sell. A lot of it was because the community got behind it. They wanted it to happen.''

The stadium had 68 corporate boxes for sale for $200,000 ‘‘upfront'' and $50,000 a year for 15 years.

The Dunedin stadium has 18 corporate boxes, with the price on those to be announced on April 2.

Mr Gray said Wellington corporates made decisions that were ‘‘not necessarily'' commercial just so the stadium would be built.

‘‘I think there's pretty clear evidence that many of them were actually just making a donation when they paid the price.''

Westpac Stadium, or the ‘‘Caketin'' as it is known, opened in 2000. An economic assessment completed five years later showed it had been ‘‘a brilliant investment - the best the city has ever made'', Mr Grey said.

He had provided the Carisbrook Stadium Trust with information and the common advice that each area needed its own market research about what could be sold in it.

He did not see the Dunedin stadium as an ‘‘actual competitor'' because the Wellington stadium did not generally do ‘‘second-tier [rugby] test matches''.

In the eight years it had been open, the stadium had increased Super 14 games from two to six or seven - at the expense of Palmerston North, New Plymouth and Napier. It held more than 700 events a year and it had also gained the franchise for the Phoenix football club.

Mr Gray believed teams that were crowd favourites performed better in the atmosphere of an enclosed stadium.

‘‘You see teams win games simply because the crowd gets behind them. The atmosphere is huge. It plays a big part in it.''

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