Tom Hooper: Stadium essential for Christchurch

"The costs of major investments like a new stadium are high, but so too is the cost of not having a large, all-weather ...

"The costs of major investments like a new stadium are high, but so too is the cost of not having a large, all-weather venue," says Canterbury Development Corporation chief executive Tom Hooper.

OPINION: Lots of decisions in life are complex – deciding whether or not we need a multi-purpose, all weather stadium in Christchurch is not.

It's a no-brainer, an essential investment in a key piece of city infrastructure for the future.

Size, functionality, roof and ultimate cost can blur this picture, but we should not lose sight of the fact that having a stadium is actually a pretty basic requirement for a city such as ours.

It's essential that we build a stadium that will serve the city for the next 40 years, or longer.

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That means it needs a roof, to be comfortable enough for people to keep coming back.

It needs to be suitable for a wide range of entertainment, sporting, community, cultural and business events, and kitted out with smart technology to support that range of events into the future.

Like most Cantabrians I'd love to see the All Blacks back here playing test matches, but a stadium is a whole lot more than a rugby ground.

It's about us responding to the reality of what is needed to attract and retain the people, visitors and businesses that are critical to Christchurch's future success as a city.

The work we've done at Canterbury Development Corporation (CDC) gives us confidence in understanding what modern cities need to succeed.

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It's clear that in the coming decades cities will become increasingly competitive, not just for businesses, industry or technologies, but for people.

Several factors are driving this: technology is increasing labour mobility and the dispersion of people around the world, and industry is increasingly making decisions to locate where the right labour is for its needs.

People need jobs to live in cities, but increasingly cities are having to compete on the quality of their amenities, services and the lifestyle they offer to attract and retain people.

We're all different, so there's no guaranteed formula for what attracts and retains people in cities.

 What we know is that it's a combination of career opportunities, strong amenity and leisure value, and good public services - schools, healthcare, safety, roads, internet and suchlike.

CDC has always strongly advocated the 'city package' approach to the city rebuild, not assessing public assets in isolation of each other, but as a combined programme of work that builds a positive and appealing Christchurch brand.

The stadium is an important piece of this overall programme.

Rugby often dominates people's thinking about a stadium, especially here in Canterbury with our proud rugby history, but the reality is that a true multi-purpose arena is used for many different things.

The old Lancaster Park-based facility was used on pretty much a daily basis for a wide variety of meetings and functions.

That should again be the case with any new facility.

Not to mention the fact that to attract world class international acts like Ed Sheeran we have to have a compelling commercial proposition that, given our climate, is weather-proofed.

The costs of major investments like a new stadium are high, but so too is the cost of not having a large, all-weather venue.

We will continue to miss out on major events that bring significant economic benefits to the city – event organisers and sports bodies will continue to bypass our city because the economics of coming here simply don't add up.

The stadium is truly an anchor project for Christchurch and surveys have shown locals' strong support.

We need to work together with all of the key stakeholders to ensure it becomes a reality as quickly as possible.

Tom Hooper is the chief executive of the Canterbury Development Corporation.

 

 - Stuff

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