Mothballing stadium an option

Forsyth Barr stadium. Photo by ODT.
Forsyth Barr stadium. Photo by ODT.
The idea of mothballing Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium might raise eyebrows, but it is officially on the table for the Dunedin City Council.

The move was confirmed by council staff yesterday, even as Mayor Dave Cull said it was not a ''particularly constructive'' idea and was unlikely to solve the council's stadium-sized financial headache.

''My personal view is you can mothball the stadium but you can't mothball the debt, so you may as well have the stadium,'' Mr Cull told the Otago Daily Times.

His comments came after council chief executive Dr Sue Bidrose said mothballing the venue was one option among many being considered as part of the stadium review.

The review, which aimed to address $3.79 million of losses forecast by Dunedin Venues Management Ltd over the next three years, was announced in January and due to be completed by early August.

Dr Bidrose said at the time all options were on the table, from bringing the stadium operation in-house operation to privatising the venue.

Yesterday, she said mothballing was another of the ''persistent ideas'' raised by a section of the public that needed to be considered.

The review needed to put all options in front of councillors, ''and that includes the funding model for not having a stadium'', she said.

She would not be drawn on the likely financial impact of mothballing the venue, or say how realistic an option she considered it to be.

Instead, she would only say it was a physically more ''doable'' option than some other suggestions from the public.

That did not stop the news of its inclusion being welcomed by former Stop the Stadium president Bev Butler, who said the city's stadium honeymoon was over and mothballing the venue was now ''inevitable''.

''Tinkering with stadium models is fruitless and will only result in more millions being wasted.''

Cr Lee Vandervis was more cautious, saying he did not believe the idea was being ''seriously considered'', but ''profligate'' spending by DVML still needed to be reined in.

Council finance committee chairman Cr Richard Thomson said he supported investigating all stadium options, including mothballing the venue, as part of the review.

However, he doubted the financial benefits would stack up for ratepayers.

Mothballing would cut costs but still leave the council with the same stadium debt, and no income from DVML to help pay for it.

''If you're asking me is that a realistic option, my personal view is it would an extremely unlikely option.''

The city would also lose the use of the facility, leaving the All Blacks, Highlanders and other stadium users without a venue, he added.