Groups able to use part of stadium free of charge

The managers of the Forsyth Barr Stadium have opened up one end of the venue for use by the community free of charge as part of a $750,000 annual service level agreement with the Dunedin City Council.

Schools, sports teams and community groups have been invited to use the Otago Daily Times stand at eastern end of the stadium free of charge.

Dunedin Venues Ltd chief executive Darren Burden said there would be no charge for the use of the covered, concrete sealed pad, which he imagined would be ''perfect'' for sports training and practice as well as physical education or school fairs.

Nearby toilets and bus parking in the stadium car park were available and their use, as well as any associated cleaning and lighting, would all be free of charge.

The stand area has already had various uses, and is either used for the stage or temporary seating for major events at the stadium.

It has previously been roped off and used for concerts attended by up to 5000 people.

With winter approaching, Mr Burden said he expected the pad to be popular with sports and school groups looking for a guaranteed dry space.

''We continue to work towards striking the appropriate balance between commercial and community events. Being able to provide such affordable access and fostering community pride in the stadium is really important to us as an organisation.''

The council last year agreed to spend $750,000 a year to subsidise greater community use of the stadium.

As the final agreement between the council and Dunedin Venues Management Ltd was reached only in December, about half, or $375,000 is available to be spent on community activities by June 30.

DVML decides how the money is to be spent, either by subsidising or fully funding community events.

So far, a Sunday market at the stadium each week, the Relay For Life and the recent New Zealand Marching Championships have received funding via the agreement.

Mr Burden could not say yesterday how much remained to be spent.

No decisions had been made about what happened with any money unspent under the agreement - which can be reviewed or modified by the council at any time - at the end of each year.

The pad was available for the community to use weekdays between 8.30am and 4.30pm.

Bookings were essential and subject to availability.

- debbie.porteous@odt.co.nz

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