Stadium Southland claim accepted

Contemplating the future of Stadium Southland in Invercargill yesterday are (from left) stadium...
Contemplating the future of Stadium Southland in Invercargill yesterday are (from left) stadium general manager Nigel Skelt, NZI acting general manager Jo Mason and stadium trust chairman Acton Smith. Photo from NZPA.
Nothing lifts the spirits quite like a cheque for $25 million.

Stadium Southland general manager Nigel Skelt was able to smile for the first time since heavy snowfall caused part of the venue's roof to collapse earlier this month.

He allowed himself a grin after hearing news New Zealand Insurance (NZI) had accepted the venue's insurance claim for between $20 million and $25 million.

"I'm absolutely delighted for the wider Southland community," he told the Otago Daily Times.

"Morale has taken a huge lift.

"We haven't had a lot of good news and to get NZI to accept the claim ... has been pretty significant."

Progress has been made cleaning up the debris but Skelt expects contractors will be busy for at least another three weeks.

More heartbreak is expected when what remains of the roof over the main court is demolished.

The venue has been the spine of the community since it opened in March 2000.

It is where the Sting thrilled so many over the years and for the past three seasons it has been home to the Southern Steel.

The Southland Sharks basketball franchise joined the National Basketball League this year and quickly established an impressive home record.

Watching what survives of the building's skeleton tumble to the ground would be "a sad occasion", Skelt said.

But the community was determined to get the stadium back to its former glory by March 2012.

"There is a design team meeting [this] morning and we hope to get the build under way in March next year, all going well.

"Our catch phrase, at the moment, is `Game on 2012'," he added.

"We are looking towards a March completion, if possible.

We are confident with all going well we can be up and going by then.

March 30 is a significant date for us, because that is when we first opened the building in 2000."

In the meantime, plans are progressing to import or source a wooden court from within New Zealand in order to stage matches in the centre of the indoor velodrome, Skelt said.

"We are only a couple of days away from making that decision."

Early reports on the makeshift venue have been favourable, Skelt said.

He hoped they could fit the velodrome to house crowds of up to 2700.

Steel chief executive Julie Paterson could not be reached for comment yesterday but last week indicated her preference was for the Steel to remain in Invercargill, rather than play all of its home games in Dunedin.

 

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