Christchurch stadium row: Decision to reduce capacity to be revisited at council meeting next week

Christchurch stadium row: Decision to reduce capacity to be revisited at council meeting next week

A controversial decision by Christchurch City Council to reduce the number of seats at the city’s new covered stadium will be revisited at a council meeting next week.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel this afternoon said she had been advised that a notice of motion has been received by the Chief Executive, which seeks a revision of the July 22 council decision to proceed with a 25,000-seat arena.

Controversy has surrounded the decision to reduce the seating capacity of the Canterbury Multi-Use Arena (CMUA) from an initial concept of 30,000 seats to 25,000, after saying the budget had already blown out by $131 million.

The decision has divided the city, with thousands signing an online petition to stick with the original capacity, fearing they could miss out on big All Blacks matches and other key events.

The petition will also be presented at next week’s August 12 council meeting.

“This brings the issue of both the cost and capacity of the arena to a head,” Dalziel said in a statement.

“The resolution we passed was to push go on the preliminary design for a covered, multi-use arena based on a minimum of 25,000 seats.

“The debate on the day focused on the unique proposition this arena will bring to the city and the visitor experience of ‘being there’ for the range of events it will attract, not just a Tier 1 rugby match.

“The notice of motion for next week’s council meeting seeks to reconsider the amendment to increase the number of seats to 30,000, and, if that vote isn’t successful, to run a parallel preliminary design process for both.”

She added: “Given that the resolution we passed asked the contractors to try to increase the number of seats within the budget allocated, I have asked staff to seek an early estimate of what that could mean as well.

“Council staff and the contractors involved in this project now have a lot of work to do in order to support the notice of motion. This will temporarily divert them from doing work on the arena’s preliminary design.

“They will need to provide considered advice to support elected members as they consider whether to confirm the previous decision or to pursue a different path.”

Dalziel says “this has to be the end of the matter as we need to get on and build the arena as soon as possible, without burdening our ratepayers with further cost escalations caused by delays.

“If the councillors had provided notice of their amendment to increase the seating capacity, staff would have had time to provide advice on the amendment prior to the 22 July meeting,” she said.

“Our decision-making processes to date have all complied with the Local Government Act and have involved comprehensive briefings with Councillors prior to decision making meetings.

“No matter what, we will be building a great arena for our region.”

Councillor Sam MacDonald is one of five city councillors – including Phil Mauger, Catherine Chu, James Gough, and Aaron Keown – who voted to keep plans for a 30,000-seat stadium, due to open in 2024.

MacDonald said earlier today that the “short-sighted decision” must be revisited.

“I’m not even convinced it’s consistent with the Local Government Act and I suspect, but I don’t know for sure, that the Mayor will be taking some legal advice today on whether the decision we made 10 days ago is in fact even valid,” he told Canterbury Mornings with John McDonald on Newstalk ZB today.

Christchurch stadium row: Decision to reduce capacity to be revisited at council meeting next week

Concept plans showed a design similar to Dunedin's popular Forsyth Barr Stadium. Image / Supplied

MacDonald, a trained accountant, also believes the numbers that council went by last month – costing another $88m on top of its $473m budget – don’t quite “stack up”.

He believes there’s around $21m in savings in governance, project management and rates budgets, that were applied to the 25,000-seat option but not the 30,000-seat option.

“It’s a game-changer,” MacDonald says.

“It does bring it back to, I think, council needing to relook at this.

“The reality is, we’re an elected council, with a mayor, deputy mayor, and councillors, and we should be able to critically analyse information presented to us.”

The figures are included a public excluded city council report from July 22 – which was released yesterday.

Mary Richardson, general manager of citizens and community for Christchurch City Council, said the original contractor’s price estimates were provided to the council and had been independently verified.

Christchurch stadium row: Decision to reduce capacity to be revisited at council meeting next week

The initial concept plans had 30,000 seats. Image / Supplied

Dalziel said earlier this week that the decision was the best one for the council and the Canterbury region.

“People just have to realise there has been a reduction both nationally and internationally in attendance of sporting events,” she said.

“The reality is we are building a multi-use arena that is right up close to the central city, unlike anything else in the country.”

Concept plans released just before Christmas 2019 showed a design similar to Dunedin’s popular Forsyth Barr Stadium, with a clear, plastic roof and spectators seated close to the action.

Red and black sports lovers were devastated when the February 2011 killer earthquake ended more than 100 years of sporting history at Lancaster Park – or AMI Stadium as it was when the violent shaking sunk its giant concrete grandstands and saw liquefaction swamp the once-prime turf.

For the past nine years, top-flight rugby and other sports have been accommodated at a “temporary” AMI Stadium, now known as Orangetheory Stadium, in Addington on the old rugby league showgrounds.

Meanwhile, the old Lancaster Park site has since been razed and cleared to eventually make way for club sports fields, with the new stadium earmarked for already three cleared CBD blocks bounded by Tuam, Hereford, Madras and Barbadoes streets.

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