The City of Wellington has settled on a waterfront location for a proposed new indoor entertainment and sports arena that will seek to attract major events to New Zealand.

A 12,000-seat arena has been identified as crucial if the capital wants to attract large-scale national and international acts. Architecture firms WSP Opus and Cox put forward five potential sites to a Greater Wellington Regional Strategy Committee meeting, including three on CentrePort land at Kings Wharf. “The Kings Wharf option has been identified as clearly the best location,” Mayor Justin Lester said.

Lester added that the project has in-principle support from the region’s mayors. He said: “The market is there in Wellington but we don’t have the offering. The Gemba report earlier this year told us that.”

The report from the sport and entertainment agency, released in April, looked at the constraints of the existing 6,000-seat TSB Arena. It also examined trends in arena development, the competitive landscape and the health of the live entertainment and large event industry. It estimated the larger events a 12,000-seat indoor arena could attract would be worth about NZ$26m (£13.8m/€15.7m/$17.7m) in GDP to the region per year.

“Bigger acts could make New Zealand a destination by performing at bigger venues in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, rather than tacking us on to the end of an Australian tour,” Lester said. “The arena could be the catalyst for a raft of new development in the area, with a mixture of commercial, retail and residential, both private and affordable.

“The precinct development would be required to off-set the costs of a new arena. The next step will be working with our partners on the land and looking at the precinct development options.”

Planning work will be done in parallel with CentrePort’s work on a potential new multi-use ferry terminal. However, the Stuff.co.nz website noted that the availability of the land and funding for the project remains uncertain. Included in the city council’s long-term development plan is an NZ$85.7m contribution to an indoor arena, but costs are unknown beyond this.

Lester said the arena would be developed in a private-public partnership similar to the Spark Arena in Auckland. He added: “I won’t go into names at the moment. We would go in with experienced promoters and venue operators, coupled with precinct development partners.”

Image: Wellington City Council