Academy could be at stadium

The New Zealand Academy of Sport, South Island, may move to the Forsyth Barr Stadium, with $3.8 million from the Dunedin City Council earmarked for more building at the site.

The plan is to use the roofed stadium's facilities for academy athletes, making it a high-performance hub.

But there was some debate about the issue at a council annual plan meeting yesterday, and the academy's future - and how much money it receives - will be the subject of a report by the Logan Park redevelopment working party in July.

Academy chief executive Kereyn Smith said in an interview while the plan was still conceptual, the academy hoped to have a 1200sq m building at the northeast corner of the site, from which it would be able to use the free areas at the east end of the stadium, and the field itself, for the more than 20 codes and 250 athletes it worked with.

The Otago Highlanders team shares the academy's Logan Park home, and may move with the academy.

The academy's move from its home at the former art gallery at Logan Park has been on the agenda since 2005, under the council's Logan Park redevelopment plan.

A report to yesterday's meeting from council community life general manager Graeme Hall said there was space at the stadium for the facilities, but "there is a need to add to these spaces".

Released in 2005, the redevelopment proposal included plans for new facilities for tennis, athletics, squash and the academy.

A new sport and recreation complex for tertiary students would replace the University of Otago's Unipol gymnasium, and there would be an addition to the Caledonian track grandstand, and more hockey and soccer facilities.

The $15.7 million proposal is included in the council's budget, but was delayed when the stadium came on to the scene, as there was uncertainty about what could be incorporated into the stadium.

The original plan was for the academy to be housed next to Unipol.

Mr Hall's report, an update on the redevelopment, said providing facilities for the academy was "the next essential task requiring action", as any delay in the planning could affect the University Oval upgrade, which involved partly demolishing the former art gallery.

The stadium had space for the academy and its partnership with the Highlanders, but there was a need for more.

The report recommended $3.8 million of the Logan Park budget be used to house the academy on the stadium site.

Mr Hall said the city agreed to provide the academy with a headquarters when Dunedin was picked as its South Island home, and the Highlanders moved to the Logan Park site shortly after that.

Ms Smith, who is also on the Highlanders' board, said the academy had discussed the issue with the sporting codes it worked with, and looked at various possible sites, but had decided the stadium was "clearly" the best option.

The area at the east end of the stadium which would accommodate removable seating would have a surface put on it and become a large, roofed training centre, which "for all sorts of reasons" would work well for the academy.

Most of the requirements of the Highlanders had been considered for the move, but the final details for the rugby team were yet to be decided.

The new building would have a gymnasium and training centre, and would be cheaper to build at the stadium than at a greenfields site.

Despite concerns raised by Crs Teresa Stevenson and Kate Wilson, the council voted to approve the move, although redevelopment working party chairman Cr Paul Hudson said the working party may have "slightly different views" on the allocation of the budget when it considered the matter.

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