Tauranga City Council has expressed support in principle for a new community stadium in the New Zealand city, but has requested more information on the project before deciding whether to carry out a public consultation.
Priority One, the Western Bay of Plenty region’s economic development organisation, presented a business case to the council during a meeting held yesterday (Monday).
Council commissioners have asked Priority One to pursue the formation of a Trust to undertake the fundraising for the stadium project, which could cost up to NZ$220.2m (£109.4m/€124.5m/$136.4m).
The “non-traditional” stadium would have 7,000 permanent seats, with the provision for a further 8,000 temporary seats. The wider site would include an exhibition centre, a function centre, a multi-use community facility and a sports science/physiotherapy space.
The stadium, which would host rugby matches, could also stage festivals catering for up to 40,000 participants, according to the business case presented by Priority One. The current estimated cost of NZ$220.2m includes contingency and cost escalation provisions totalling NZ$59.2m.
The proposed concept would be expected to generate positive earnings but would be unlikely to fully cover debt, interest and depreciation costs, which the council said is typical of similar facilities around the world. Should the council decide to support the proposal, it would be expected that an operational grant would be required to offset these costs.
Council commissioner Bill Wasley said the business case presented by Priority One could have “considerable” regional benefits but noted that much needed to be done to confirm community support for the project and how it would be funded.
Commissioner Stephen Selwood also highlighted the business case prediction of potential social and economic contributions totalling NZ$778m being generated over the project lifetime, including construction and visitor spending benefits.
It has been proposed that the stadium will replace the existing Tauranga Croquet Club. The New Zealand Herald noted that Gretchen Benvie, president of the club, told the commission that the project would be like “taking paradise and turning it into a parking lot”.
Benvie said: “To destroy the fine open green space that is the Tauranga Domain because of the desire of a few to build a rugby stadium for a few games a year would be ignoring the wants and needs of the majority of Tauranga residents.”
Wasley added: “This is really the start of the process. We now need to know what the wider community thinks about the proposal and continue engaging with our partner organisations on contributions which would reflect the regional benefits a stadium could provide.
“We also need to continue working with organisations currently located at the Domain whose activities may be impacted if the proposal did proceed, to ensure that solutions would be available to meet their needs.
“We are aware that some current Tauranga Domain users do have concerns about the proposal, but this is an opportunity to think about what’s best for the city, in the context of the revitalisation of the city centre which is now underway, as well as the potential benefits to the western Bay of Plenty and the wider region. It’s also a chance to think about city green spaces and amenities which would be fit-for-purpose for decades to come, including access to the proposed facility in a low-carbon emission future.”