Christchurch City Council has approved the allocation of NZ$220m (£111.1m/€125.1m/$142.3m) in funding towards the development of a new stadium which hopes to open in 2023 as the replacement for Lancaster Park, a venue damaged beyond repair by the 2011 earthquake that hit the New Zealand city.

The council made the announcement today (Friday) as it staged the first in a series of community workshops to discuss the design of the new roofed multi-use stadium. Greater Christchurch Regeneration Minister Megan Woods said in a statement: “This funding brings Canterbury’s much needed arena one step closer. This will be a huge boost for the city and it’s important we get it right.

“That’s why we are bringing the sporting codes, local businesses and the entertainment sector together to help us make sure the design is right and the building is fit for purpose. We will be holding a series of workshops with each of these sectors to hear what they need from the arena, and how it can be made to work best for them.

“Of the $300m the government has put on the table to speed up the city’s recovery, council has requested that $220m go towards the new arena. We have agreed to that request and ring fenced that money to ensure it’s available for the arena. That means the project can move forward with confidence.

“From here a full investment case will be developed to ensure the project is well designed and stacks up financially. These workshops will ensure the business case is strong. We are hopeful of seeing early construction work begin in 2021.”

In February 2011, a 6.2-magnitude earthquake hit the city, killing 185 people and causing widespread damage. Lancaster Park (pictured) had served as the home of Super Rugby franchise the Crusaders and also an international cricket venue, but such was the condition of the venue after the earthquake, inspectors concluded that it could not be restored.

Mayor Lianne Dalziel said today: “Once it was known that Lancaster Park would have to be demolished this became a much higher priority for our residents. There was significant support for the multi-use arena through last year’s 10-year budget process, so we brought-forward by two years the funding commitment to make it happen. Today’s announcement gives us certainty and confidence to push ahead.

“We’ve already started advanced technical works on-site to get the project moving and we’re expecting to see early ground investigations underway by the end of the year. This is a project for the people of our region and we want to take them along with us every step of the way. Today’s meeting was an example of the sort of engagement that will continue right across our community. It’s a great project for Canterbury and today’s milestone sees it one step closer.”

The new stadium will stand separate to the city’s MetroSports Facility and Woods believes community engagement will lead to a better arena for the city. She added: “We’ve seen at the MetroSports Facility how working hand in hand with local people can lead to a better result – there we were able to turn around a $70m budget blowout and get the project back on track.

“Working with the local community will ensure the arena is fit for purpose and best suited to the needs of Christchurch.”

Image: Geoff Trotter