Christchurch may get new stadium within five years



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Christchurch may get new stadium within five years Image: Christchurch City Council

The 25,000-seat roofed stadium in Christchurch (New Zealand) is likely to get ready within five years. However, pressure is mounting vis-a-vis a perfect planning and building the facility in the right way.

It has a $473m budget, out of which $80m could be sliced off the price if everything goes on track.

The city council’s investment case for the facility – over which there was a lot of foot-dragging – was released recently which underlines the fact as to how the city can have the stadium of its choice on a wallet-friendly budget.

If city councillors initial the plan this week, it will go to the Cabinet for the final tick.

The report says a 25,000 seat mostly clear-roofed arena is the venue which fit the bill for the city, and could be built within the budgeted $473 million, which includes running costs. Temporary seating is not into the scheme of things right now but could be added later.

The chosen option would cost $333m to build and $104.9m to operate the stadium over a period of 30 years, of which $92.7m would be funded by stadium income, with an annual $4.2m council top-up.

The case observed that a lot of funds would go into building the stadium and running the same but it would not bring in the required economic benefits. Whatever may be the case, it was also observed that the city faces a lot of inconvenience sans a stadium and certain benefits cannot be measured.

Colin Mansbridge, Chief Executive of The Crusaders rugby franchise, said they were “excited” that the investment case was finally released but the real challenge lies in getting the design and planning done right.

“It proves to the council and Government that it is possible. We’re encouraged by what is planned,” he stated.

“Now it’s a case of getting on and making sure it gets done. Getting the right governance and project management is incredibly important,” Mansbridge stressed.
 

Cost-Cutting

The investment case prepared by council and government staff reveals that the council staff preferred a $505.3m option from eight considered, but shaved off $28m after Crown officials raised affordability issues.

A planned elevated walkway was done away with, the facade area was reduced, grass in lieu of paving, and partnering with a technology company to provide big screens were some of the decisions taken to enable savings.

Though the original plan was to build the stadium in 2017, the new deadline set to complete the stadium is 2024.

Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Leeann Watson said that in designing the stadium within the budget, the city must “make sure we are not missing out on maximizing our opportunities”.

She was happy that the investment case allowed room for finding out other means of funding.

“Our city is growing and the world is changing quickly, so we need to be focused on the future, not the present. It is really essential to get the right skills and experience and expertise to get the right people to develop the project,” she observed.
 

City Benefits

Joanna Norris, Chief Executive of the economic and promotional agency ChristchurchNZ, is thrilled over the fact that the new facility is scheduled to open within five years.

“We’re competitive with other cities and a stadium is a basic requirement for a modern and competitive place like NZ and internationally.”

Norris said the development would give a shot in the arm to the city in many ways – “There is also social benefit, events bring vibrancy to a city making it a better place to live and that’s beyond the direct economic benefit.”

The report envision $395.6m of economic benefit from the stadium over 30 years, which includes $83.9m from tourism, $103.9m in the form of extra consumer spending, and $53.9m in “civic pride”. The report also highlights what the city stands to gain from the project when compared with the present temporary stadium.

The investment case also points out that not boasting a stadium puts up four key problems before the city – reduced tourist flow and economic activity, reduced vibrancy and viability of the Central Business District (CBD), private investment gets delayed because everything is shrouded in uncertainty, and the effect on Christchurch’s identity as a sporting and cultural capital.

Council Citizens and Community General Manager Mary Richardson said people could take a close look into the investment case and then decide whether they are willing to invest in it. She felt that fetching extra funding would be a “significant bonus”.
 

Modus Operandi

The city’s new venue will be owned by the Christchurch City Council and most likely its events company Vbase will operate the stadium, as per the investment case.

The city council will also be in charge of the construction project. To oversee construction matters, an independent board of about six people will be formed. They will be picked up based on their experience of working with huge construction projects.

The council’s major facilities Vertical Capital Delivery Manager Alistair Pearson said the board was “key” to the success of the project.

Mary Richardson said it was imperative that the board members took quick decisions as any delay would lead to the costs spiralling by $1m to $1.2m a month.

The investment case recommends adopting a design and build contract, which means a single entity is contracted to both design and build the stadium to a detailed brief.

However, if the right partners were found, a public-private partnership mode could be adopted wherein the private sector builds and operates the stadium and shares the costs.

A draft project timeline aims for a detailed design brief to be complete in spring of next year. A contractor to design and build the stadium is expected to be in place in the early part of 2021, with major construction work to commence in early 2022. Authorities say there could be modifications in these dates as the project work progresses.

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