new, multimillion-dollar vision to turn Eden Park into a 60,000-capacity all-weather fortress is set to spark a major public discussion and debate.
A new vision for Eden Park is set to spark a major public discussion and debate.
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A retractable roof, three new grandstands and a pedestrian promenade are features of a multimillion-dollar proposal to upgrade Eden Park, unveiled by stadium bosses.
The “Eden Park 2.0″ vision would transform the stadium into a 60,000-capacity sport and entertainment fortress, allowing for a multi-purpose 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 – Eden Park Trust chair Doug McKay estimates it would be about 40 per cent 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 says. “It’s our future covered.”
“People love coming here – it’s been the place of memories for decades for New Zealanders,” says McKay. “We need a 60,000-capacity stadium – Eden Park is it. Auckland has to be the home of that stadium.”
Eden Park would become the centrepiece of a national and regional stadium strategy. Image / Eden Park Trust
Eden Park's capacity would lift to 60,000 under the 2.0 vision. Image / Eden Park Trust
He and stadium bosses say 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 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 NPC rugby games.
The new-look Eden Park would replace what former Herald
sportswriter Dylan Cleaver once described as 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;
- A grand pedestrian promenade – like the one leading to Sky Stadium in Wellington – linking Kingsland train station with a new entrance to the park. The promenade would be built over busy Sandringham Rd and give pedestrians unencumbered access.
A pedestrian promenade would link Kingsland station with a new entrance of Eden Park. Image / Eden Park Trust
The retractable roof would allow all-weather concerts and events at Eden Park. Image / Eden Park Trust
Park bosses cite a number of other advantages.
The park’s location is already at the centre 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 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 neighbourhood, to and from the airport and 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. “This is the C02 equivalent of running Eden Park operations for 100 years or removing 30,000 cars from the road for a year,” Eden Park says.
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 Eden Park now has substantial support from its neighbours and 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 ageing assets at the council-owned stadiums such as Mt Smart, Western Springs and North Harbour.
The Warriors play at Mt Smart; major rugby games move between Eden Park and North Shore Stadium; and short-form cricket games are at Eden Park. Western Springs hosts speedway and some concerts. Test cricket is no longer a real option in Auckland, until a boutique, more intimate ground – such as Colin Maiden Park in the eastern suburbs – is developed.
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 government, council, parks and codes all need to align on a stadium strategy for New Zealand and Auckland,” says McKay. “And stadiums in Auckland should be all quarantined into one organisation – at the moment, they all march to a different tune.”
While there had been conversations with 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 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.
In 2015, Black Caps 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. (The heroics were not to be repeated across The Ditch).
More recently, Eden Park has been host to a suite of international and local music acts including Ed Sheeran, Billy Joel, Guns N’ Roses and Six60. It now has resource consent to host six concerts a year.
In 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. Pop star Pink 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, Auckland Council took over the park’s $40m bank debt and loaned it a further $13m at a favourable interest rate. It also granted the park a $9.8 million no-strings grant to help keep it operational.
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 councillors.
Not mentioned in the vision released today, 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 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 trust chair since 2014 and whose tenure as 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, neighbours and rugby and cricket.
“There is still so much opportunity,” McKay says.
“New Zealand must have a 55,000 to 60,000-person stadium to realise 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.”