Opinion: The 'fundamental flaw' in stadium plan

So what kind of a stadium Christchurch will get has finally been unveiled.

And to be fair, it doesn’t look too bad. But there is one fundamental flaw.

Several weeks ago I was advocating for a Bankwest-type stadium in Sydney’s western suburbs, which cost $A360m, has a 30,000 capacity and the seating is angled in such a way spectators are right on top of the action.

It doesn’t have a roof but the way it is designed keeps the elements relatively at bay. The stadium has been a roaring success.

Christchurch’s stadium will cost $NZ472.7 million, has a 25,000 seating capacity (36,000 for concerts with standing room) and a roof.

The seating capacity is a major concern.

Canterbury is the world rugby powerhouse, but since the February 22, 2011, earthquake we have had no significant test matches, because of the limited capacity at Orangetheory (formerly AMI), and the lack of accommodation to cater for the influx of fans.

As a result, Dunedin has been the benefactor.

The 25,000 seating capacity will almost certainly mean Christchurch still won’t get top-line rugby test matches. That is a travesty for such a successful and heritage-driven rugby stronghold as Canterbury.

Eden Park seats 54,000, Westpac Stadium in Wellington 34,000 and Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr close to 31,000.

So why another 5000-6000 seats were not built into the plan to allow Christchurch to also get its share of big test matches is hard to fathom.

The stadium is costing nearly half a billion dollars and there will be an $80 million a year ongoing operating cost to ratepayers.

Maybe that’s just the price of a city still in rebuild mode where supply and demand for the ongoing big projects dictates the cost.

So our football diet according to the stadium’s business plan will be Super Rugby, provincial rugby matches, one high profile football and rugby league match each year, and second-rate rugby tests.

For the stadium to be relatively economic it will need to be used regularly. The rugby, football and league matches, plus the concerts, which will now come too, are unlikely to be enough.

The city’s sports, business and civic leaders should now be thinking of dual rugby code franchises based here in Christchurch to keep money turning – the Crusaders and a rugby league side which will play  in the NRL, like the Auckland-based Warriors.

The expertise to run such a franchise, and the up-and-coming player talent, is here in Christchurch. The money? – That’s a curly one.




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