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What next for Carisbrook? Chris Skellett lays five funky options on the table.
After months of consultative meetings, working parties and focus groups, it has finally been suggested that Carisbrook should be redeveloped as a site for light industrial development or old people's housing, or as a local sports ground for South Dunedin.
Boring, boring, and more boring!
Carisbrook is a veritable jewel in Dunedin's crown. We cannot afford to let it quietly wither away and simply become some bland, low-key civic amenity. As a city, we usually pride ourselves on our innovation and our creative edge, but, sadly, we have yet to apply these qualities to our planning for the future uses of the 'Brook.
So, with this in mind, I offer a few provocative options for public consideration, simply to ramp up our vision and perhaps to lift our collective dream.
Firstly, what about creating a zoo for the city? If Timaru can have one, why can't we? Polar bears could roam across the terraces, antelope and zebra could graze across the hallowed turf, and reptiles could be housed under the Rose Stand.
Chimps and baboons could happily swing about in the Neville St family stand, just like all those obnoxious kids have done for so many years in the past. And the corporate boxes would obviously be capable of catering for a wide range of cold-blooded snakes, sly foxes and freeloading hyenas, just as they always have done too.
A second suggestion for Carisbrook is to establish an urban heliport at the ground. This would offer executive heli-connections direct to the city from Dunedin International Airport, and turn one of Dunedin's greatest scourges (the distance from the airport to town) into a fun, zappy thing.
The heliport would also anticipate the burgeoning needs of the oil rigs that we hear are planned for the Great Southern Basin. We see this sort of thing all the time on the Discovery Channel. Aberdeen has three of them.
Helicopter tours of the peninsula and local whale-watching excursions would also become a natural part of the total heli-package scene. And affluent farmers from the rural hinterland could boogie right on into town for the weekend without the usual hassle of having to deal with the Roxburgh traffic cop.
As we all saw at the end of the Welsh test earlier in the year, helicopters at Carisbrook are inspirational. With a little imagination, Dunedin could easily become world-renowned as Chopper Heaven.
A third idea is to turn Carisbrook into an amusement park to match Auckland's Rainbow's End. Disneyland would have nothing on us. We could invite Stuart Landsborough to develop a glorified urban equivalent of Wanaka's Puzzling World, or perhaps the Big Ups team from Sammy's could design a giant inflatable assault course for adults and kids.
Imagine the hordes of Japanese game show enthusiasts lining up for the opportunity to be bludgeoned, Top Town style, into the puddles and mud, once again making the gooey Carisbrook playing surface world famous.
The fourth Carisbrook proposal could be to totally cover the pitch with a huge, massively trendy, ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) dome. It could then be marketed globally as the southern hemisphere's answer to the Eden Project in England. Amazing things might happen under such an enhanced ecosystem, despite being so far from the equator.
To give the eco-park a Dunedin edge, we could invite two flats of students, six males and six females, to live organically inside the dome, roaming freely and unclothed. Within days, they would undoubtedly regress into a near feral state, and we could then charge for admission to the main stand to watch their antics unfold.
Finally, and perhaps on a slightly more sombre note, the fifth option could be to turn Carisbrook into a themed crematorium. People could pay a premium rate for the privilege of being buried somewhere near Bert Sutcliffe.
And if this idea was not a goer, we could instead run the stadium as a giant treasure hunt, where people simply paid to borrow a shovel for half an hour to try and find Bert's ashes.
A range of civic dignitaries and local personalities could be encouraged to bequeath their ashes too, to add variety and complexity to the task. Mike Guest, if he chose to make himself available, would presumably be buried somewhere way out of left field. And David Latta's ashes would be sensitively positioned as close as possible to where he scored that amazing try against the British Lions in 1993. I would pay good money to dig for him there!
But I digress. The main point that needs to be made is that Carisbrook is special. It's a large parcel of land, close to the city centre, and whether it's worth $7 million or not, it deserves to be cherished. It could become New Zealand's national baseball park, an American football stadium, or the national centre for an Aussie rules team.
An outdoor ice rink perhaps? Or even the world's first penguinarium?
Stadiums the world over have always been about providing entertainment and, over the years, Carisbrook has certainly been a fantastic venue for providing us with that. In planning for the future of Carisbrook, please let's ensure that the fun continues, and that in some way, the special character of the place is retained.
So, let's start to dream a little more expansively about our potential options, and let's also start to dream with a little more vibrancy and colour!