Christchurch City Council has today (Friday) given the first real insight into the planned appearance of the new Canterbury Multi-Use Arena (CMUA) after unveiling four preliminary design images.

Created by Christchurch-based architects Warren & Mahoney and international stadium design firm Populous, the four images provide an external view of how the CMUA will sit on the site and a more detailed internal illustration from the stands during a sporting event.

CMUA Project Delivery Ltd Board chair Barry Bragg, who was appointed in September, said the preliminary designs, developed by the Kōtui consortium, provide the most accurate picture yet of what the facility will look like once completed.

He added: “These designs crystallise our vision for the CMUA to be the most modern, fit-for-purpose arena in the country – a facility that leads the way from an innovation and sustainability perspective.”

The CMUA will occupy much of the central Christchurch site bordered by Hereford, Barbadoes, Tuam and Madras streets.  At 232 metres long, 195 metres wide and 36 metres high at its tallest point, the arena will have a seating capacity of 30,000 for sporting events and up to 37,800 in concert mode.

Bragg said: “We know people are really excited about the prospect of having a covered arena in the heart of the city and we hope these preliminary designs will capture people’s imaginations and give them a glimpse of what is to come.

“We are well on the way towards delivering Christchurch a world-class covered arena with high-quality acoustics that is capable of hosting top international music concerts as well as major international sporting fixtures.”

The Council said the designs for the CMUA have developed significantly from the 2019 concepts to reflect the seismic requirements and to improve the health of the turf, the fan experience, the multi-use functionality, and to maximise the sunlight and minimise the noise impacts for neighbouring properties.

Because the roof needs to be a 175 metre by 210 metre single span across the field, the architects have opted for an oculus-style roof that has been designed as an independent structure to increase its strength. The dome shape intends to provides extra rigidity to the roof diaphragm.

The preliminary designs are the first images to be published since the project’s investment case was first completed and approved at the end of 2019. In October, it was revealed that Christchurch’s new multi-use arena will be completed six months later than planned due to additional planning work related to its expanded capacity.

An update from Christchurch City Councillors said the CMUA design and construction phase is now estimated to be completed in mid-2025. Bragg had said additional planning work was required to expand the CMUA from 25,000 to 30,000 seating capacity, while staying within the project’s budget.

The Council update also identified the updated project budget of NZ$533m (£272.1m/€319.9m/$361.2m). Councillors approved an additional NZ$50m to maintain the arena’s seating capacity at 30,000 in August.

Councillors will meet to approve the complete preliminary design package in January, with the developed design scheduled to be completed by April. The Council will then decide whether to approve the design and construction contract in the middle of 2022.

The Council today also said that a meeting scheduled for December 9 will see elected members receive the CMUA Project Delivery Board’s Statement of Intent, assurance management plan, and a gifted name for the CMUA precinct.

The statement shows how the board plans to deliver the arena by no later than June 30, 2025 and outlines key actions to 10 areas that are critical to the facility’s success and delivery. On Thursday the Council will also consider accepting the name ‘Te Kaharoa’, which Ngāi Tūāhuriri has gifted to the entire block of land that holds the CMUA. Te Kaharoa means ‘enduring strength’.

If the name is accepted, it will apply to the entire precinct bordered by Barbadoes, Tuam, Madras and Hereford streets. As the name is for the land, the Council said it would not limit any future conversations with potential sponsors seeking naming rights for the CMUA.

Christchurch City Council project lead Alistair Pearson told the Stuff.co.nz website the team working on the design is confident the NZ$533m budget can be maintained. “The word ‘blowout’ shouldn’t occur,” he said.

“I’m confident we’ll meet the budget… provided there’s no further significant increases in the price of steel and shipping, or disruptions to the supply chain.”

Images: Christchurch City Council