Andrew Gourdie: Why an Auckland waterfront stadium must be built now

Opinion 20/05/2018
Photo credit: File

OPINION: Here we go again. The waterfront stadium debate is back on the agenda.

This time, reports suggest it'll cost up to $1.5b. That's right - one and a half billion dollars.

It's a figure that makes your eyes water, especially if - like me - you're an Auckland ratepayer in line to cough up at least some of the cost for this thing.

Despite all of that, I'm in favour of charging ahead on this. Just build the thing already.

If we don't do it now, then two things are guaranteed: the problems will deepen, and the cost will continue to rise.

When a waterfront stadium was discussed more than 10 years ago, the $500 million price tag was what put paid to the idea of a brand new, state-of-the-art stadium being built to host the 2011 Rugby World Cup final. That was at a time when we actually had a big event guaranteed to hit our shores and a big opportunity to show off a new stadium to the world. Now, we don't. And you have to ask yourself if our failure to act all those years ago isn't part of the reason why.

We blew it. And every time this debate comes up, it makes my eyes water a little more to think we spurned the opportunity to leave a legacy for the city - at a third of the price.

Since then, the cost of living has gone through the roof of your unaffordable home, Auckland's population has exploded, and new roads and homes can't be built quickly enough. And I haven't even started talking about sport.

Many of us have memories of wonderful sporting moments at Eden Park, and it has set the bar extremely high as New Zealand's premier, iconic, sporting venue. In 2018 though, Eden Park is the stadium for everything, and nothing.

It's great for All Blacks tests, and the biggest games of cricket. That's it. It's too big for the Blues. It's out of proportion, cold, and cavernous for Cricket. Its continued existence means the Warriors are stuck - although not reluctantly - at Mt Smart Stadium. It'll never be a home for football while it's the home for rugby. You can't host a concert there because you'll upset the locals.

It's time for something new, somewhere else.

I don't care if it's Phil Goff's legacy project. If we don't do it now, we'll never do it. Because the longer we put this off, the bigger the cost will be, and the naysayers list of reasons for opposing it will continue to grow.

If you look around the world at the type of cities Aucklanders would like Auckland to be, then building an international quality, fit for purpose stadium in the heart of the city is a must.

This city is growing. It has its problems. Investment in other forms of infrastructure is important. I get that.

But a lot of the people coming into this city like to watch sport. Part of the reason many of them choose not to is because of the problems with Eden Park, which inevitably contributes to some of the challenges facing Auckland's sporting teams.

This is one piece of infrastructure that needs immediate attention. Fast track the feasibility study, cut the talk. Just get it done this time.

Andrew Gourdie is a sports reporter/presenter and host of RadioLIVE's Sunday Sport from 2pm.