Ambitious ‘Eden Park 2.0’ vision unveiled



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Eden Park to install a retractable roof Image: Eden Park Trust

A new, multimillion-dollar vision to turn Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand, into a 60,000-capacity all-weather fortress is set to spark a major public discussion and debate.

‘nzherald.co.nz’ stated that a retractable roof, three new grandstands and a pedestrian promenade are features of a multimillion-dollar proposal to upgrade Eden Park, unveiled by the stadium bosses.

The Eden Park is New Zealand’s national stadium, with a capacity of 50,000. Located in Central Auckland, New Zealand’s largest City, it is three kilometers Southwest of the central business district (CBD), on the boundary between the suburbs of Mount Eden and Kingsland. It opened in 1900. The South Stand was rebuilt for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

‘nzherald.co.nz’ further stated that the ‘Eden Park 2.0’ vision would transform the stadium into a 60,000-capacity sport and entertainment fortress, allowing for a multipurpose facility that attracts some of the world’s biggest sporting events and stadium concerts.

The proposal would help cement a cohesive national and regional stadium strategy but is also set to reignite a huge public debate over whether Eden Park is the right location – and who will pay.

The vision – a proposal only at this point – is the brainchild of the Eden Park Trust and has yet to be presented formally to the Council or the Government, whose support would be vital. The Trust says Eden Park has distinct financial, transport and environmental advantages, giving fans a world-class experience and facilities.

While they have not put a price tag on the vision – it would be easily hundreds of millions of dollars – the Eden Park Trust Chair Doug McKay estimates it would be about 40 percent of the cost of starting from scratch at a greenfield location and avoids engineering and environmental issues likely to affect other areas, including the Auckland waterfront.

The Trust has released a promotional video and images of the Eden Park vision – “Eden Park will be part of our future – it’s always been part of our home. It’s our future covered.”

Maintained McKay, “People love coming here – it’s been the place of memories for decades for New Zealanders. We need a 60,000-capacity stadium – Eden Park is it. Auckland has to be the home of that stadium.”

He and stadium bosses say the Eden Park – current capacity 50,000 -is the logical location for the new-look stadium to rise over the next 10-20 years.

They envisage a facility attracting all manner of sporting events beyond rugby, cricket, league, and football – from moto-cross to boxing and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), as well as concert and community events. By curtaining off upper levels – “club mode” -the ground could also be transformed for slightly smaller fixtures, such as the National Provincial Championship (NPC) rugby games.

The National Provincial Championship, often simply called the NPC, is an annual round-robin rugby union competition in men’s domestic New Zealand rugby.

The new-look Eden Park would replace a “mismatched bag of bones” – the existing patchwork design in which no two of the four grandstands are the same.
 

McKay says the revamp is envisaged in four stages:

  • New, bigger, West and East stands, with designs similar to the South Stand that was completed for the 2011 men’s Rugby World Cup;
  • A completely new North Stand, designed in line with the South Stand and the two new East and West stands;
  • A retractable roof, extending between the East and West stands, allowing all-weather events such as one-day and T20 cricket matches – and avoiding messy and wet concerts and other events; and
  • A grand pedestrian promenade – like the one leading to the 34,500-capacity Sky Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand – linking the Kingsland train station with a new entrance to the park. The promenade would be built over the busy Sandringham Road and give pedestrians unencumbered access.

 
Park bosses cite a number of other advantages.

The park’s location is already at the center of a major revamp of Auckland’s public transport infrastructure – the City Rail Link connects the Western and Eastern train lines and would deliver a big boost in passengers to the Kingsland Station directly from the CBD. And if the Labour Government gets its way, a new light-rail system would travel directly through the Eden Park neighborhood, to and from the airport and the City.

By building on the current footprint, the Park estimates it could save 137,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, compared with the construction of an entirely new facility.

A statement sent out by the Eden Park read, “This is the C02 equivalent of running Eden Park operations for 100 years or removing 30,000 cars from the road for a year.”

Despite the environmental, transport and cost advantages, the plan is likely to renew heated debate about Auckland’s various stadiums and their usage.

And while the Eden Park now has substantial support from its neighbors and the local community – they were vital in the successful bid to have concerts at the Park – there is still a faction who will likely raise a storm of protest.

McKay believes decisions on a future big-capacity stadium need to be made before further, massive ratepayer investment is placed in aging assets at the Council-owned stadiums such as the 40,000-capacity Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland, the 30,000-capacity Western Springs Stadium and Park in Auckland and the 25,000-capacity North Harbour Stadium also in Auckland.

The New Zealand Warriors of the National Rugby League (NRL) play at the Mount Smart Stadium, major rugby games move between the Eden Park and the North Shore Stadium; and short-form cricket games are at Eden Park. The Western Springs Stadium hosts speedway and some concerts. Test cricket is no longer a real option in Auckland, until a boutique, more intimate ground – such as the 4,000-capacity Colin Maiden Park in Auckland in the Eastern suburbs – is developed.

The National Rugby League (NRL) is an Australasian rugby league club competition which contains clubs from New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory, and New Zealand.

The Eden Park is run by a charitable trust, with nine trustees, five appointed by the Government and two each from cricket and rugby. The Council-owned stadiums are run through Auckland Unlimited.

The Auckland Unlimited is the Council-controlled organization of the Auckland Council that serves as Auckland’s economic and cultural agency. The organization runs major assets such as the zoo, theaters, stadiums, galleries, and other facilities.

Put in McKay, “The Government, Council, parks, and codes all need to align on a stadium strategy for New Zealand and Auckland. And stadiums in Auckland should be all quarantined into one organization – at the moment, they all march to a different tune.”

McKay further stated that while there had been conversations with the Auckland Unlimited about a single operating company, “it’s proving to be quite a challenging, complex conversation. Eden Park could easily be the landlord for the park and the park’s operating activities could be integrated into an overall operating company across the four or five major stadiums … and then sensible decisions could be made around upgrades and specifications. What is each park designed to do in the mix of an overall stadium strategy in Auckland?”
 

Eden Park

The Eden Park is a fortress for the All Blacks, who have not lost there in almost 30 years. They’ve won two men’s Rugby World Cups – in 1987 and 2011 – at the Park, a feat matched in November last year when the Black Ferns lifted the women’s Rugby World Cup with a thrilling victory over England (UK).

The New Zealand national rugby union team, commonly known as the All Blacks, represents New Zealand in men’s international rugby union, which is considered the country’s national sport.

The New Zealand women’s rugby union team, called the Black Ferns, represents New Zealand in women’s international rugby union, which is regarded as the country’s national sport. The team has won six out of nine Women’s Rugby World Cup tournaments.

In 2015, the Black Caps (New Zealand national cricket team) batsman Grant Elliott smashed a last-over six in the Cricket World Cup semifinal against South Africa, sending the New Zealanders into the final against Australia in Melbourne.

More recently, the Eden Park has been host to a suite of international and local music acts including the English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, the American singer Billy Joel, the American hard rock band Guns N’ Roses, and the New Zealand pop rock band Six60. It now has resource consent to host six concerts a year.

In the coming months, many eyes across the sporting world will be on the ground again as it plays host to the opening game and other big matches of the FIFA Women’s World Cup™. American pop star P!nk is due to perform there in March next year.

The Park received substantial taxpayer support to help build the South Stand ahead of the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

In 2019, the Auckland Council took over the Park’s $40m bank debt and loaned it a further $13m at a favorable interest rate. It also granted the Park a $9.8 million no-strings grant to help keep it operational.

The Auckland Council is the local Government Council for the Auckland Region in New Zealand. It is a territorial authority that has the responsibilities, duties and powers of a regional Council and so is a unitary authority, according to the Local Government Act 2009, which established the Council.

The Eden Park now has a healthy operating profit ($7.34m in 2022) but this falls into deficit ($3.64m last year) once depreciation and interest are taken into account.

Last year, the Park sought a further $6.3m a year in Council grants for each of the next 10 years, to help with maintenance and upgrades and to help it attract world-class events such as the FIFA Women’s World Cup™, but this was rejected by the Councilors.

Not mentioned in the vision, but which also offers a potential revenue source for a future revamped park, is the development of some of the current land footprint – for example, a hotel, residential and/or commercial premises.

McKay says there was no way the Trust could fund the Eden Park 2.0 vision without the Government and Council help – “It is both for Auckland and for the country … [previous funding has] been a combination of the Park itself finding ways to contribute, the Government funding most of the upgrade and the Council pitching in from time to time with its share. So it’d be a three-way package financially.”

McKay, who has been the Trust Chair since 2014 and whose tenure as the Chairman finishes in June, said it had always been his philosophy to leave places better than he had found them.

He is proud of the work of the Trust over the past decade, in particular building stronger relationships with stakeholders including mana whenua (the indigenous people Māori), neighbors, rugby, and cricket.

Concluded McKay, “There is still so much opportunity. New Zealand must have a 55,000 to 60,000-person stadium to realize the ambitions we have as a country to host global events. We don’t need multiple, we need one. But without it, you cannot secure these days a Rugby World Cup, a FIFA Women’s World Cup™, even a Commonwealth Games, which is being touted for the future. You’re going to have to have a big stadium in the mix of that.”

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