An exciting city council meeting is underway to confirm the concept design for Christchurch’s new multi-million dollar stadium.
Councilors held an extraordinary meeting Thursday morning to decide on a design change after it was made public that the original preferred concept, which could seat up to 30,000 seats, would have been up to $131.4 million over budget.
The change recommended by council staff reduced the number of seats to 25,000, but designers would try to find efficiencies during the upcoming preliminary design phase to get the capacity to around 27,500.
Senior council staff chaired the meeting, including Mary Richardson, general manager of the community and community, Andrew Rutledge, chief of parks, Alistair Pearson, chief of capital goods delivery, and Nigel Cox, chief of recreational sports and events.
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If the council goes ahead with the recommended 25,000 seat option, the city would have to pay more to attract major All Blacks matches against the likes of Australia, South Africa and the Lions.
New Zealand Rugby told council 25,000 seats would be too small for these major rugby matches unless a “substantial” incentive fee was provided.
stuff understands that this fee may cost up to approximately $1.2 million. With 30,000 seats, the fee would still have to be paid, but it was thought to be closer to $800,000.
The first part of Thursday’s meeting was in public, but questions relating to finances and governance – including the resignation of Murray Strong, the man who oversaw the stadium project – were discussed behind closed doors.
The morning session of the meeting was tense at times.
Some councilors, as well as Mayor Lianne Dalziel, questioned why ChristchurchNZ economic development agency was initially not there to answer questions about the stadium’s economic impact. Bureau officials later came to the meeting.
Cr Yani Johanson asked why he discovered Strong’s resignation through a media question to the board – but the matter was referred to the public, barred from the meeting.
The councilors asked several questions about their options this morning.
Dalziel asked if it was possible to build the stadium without a covered roof.
Council officials said the roof was needed to allow multi-purpose use of the stadium and that it was part of the financing agreement with the Crown.
The meeting was held behind closed doors from 12.45 pm. Once that section was completed, councilors were expected to hold a public debate on the options.
The council staff’s recommended option was to proceed with a preliminary design of a 25,000-seat stadium, which would have a U-shaped hall and a concrete slab on the south side for concerts.
The council could vote against this and decide to go ahead with the concept of a 30,000-seat stadium without a concourse, although this option was still about $7 million over budget at this point.
It could also vote to stick with the original preferred concept which was significantly too high allowing for a 30,000 seat capacity with the hall but no concrete slab.
Richardson said it was critical for councilors to make a decision on Thursday as the consortium that would develop the preliminary design awaited direction.
According to her, the preliminary design phase gives the municipality more certainty about the costs.