The Basin Reserve will get a new $11 million grandstand courtesy of the New Zealand Transport Agency, if the agency's preferred flyover option gets the green light.
The new stand would be part of a deal to counter the ill-effects of the proposed road on the sports ground.
Public consultation is now open on two flyover options: the preferred $75m option, 20 metres to the north of the sports ground, and a $90m option which takes the road about 65 metres north of the Basin.
The Basin Reserve Trust has thrashed out an agreement that it says is legally binding for NZTA to fund a new stand if the agency's preferred option goes ahead.
Save the Basin Reserve campaign convener Kent Duston said NZTA's support of the stand was "chequebook politics'' that would create a "lipstick on the pig memorial stand".
"In our view, the [agency] should go back to the drawing board on the roading design, rather than throwing good money after bad."
Mr Duston, the campaign manager for Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown during last year's elections, said the flyover was destined to emulate the performance of the inner city bypass - which he said had been "an utter failure".
"The flyover is a repeat performance of the same inept design process. There is no evidence it will improve the traffic flows to the degree being claimed, and the proposed stand demonstrates that the [agency] is resorting to writing cheques in order to force their project down the throats of Wellingtonians."
He said the transport agency's traffic engineers were attempting to hide their mistakes behind "unnecessary cricket pavilions''.
The stand would span the ground's northern gateway from the existing RA Vance Stand to the edge of the grass embankment.
It would hide the eight-metre-high flyover from nearly every vantage point in the ground.
A new entrance would replace the existing "Soviet-style toilet block" and other unsightly structures.
Spectator seating and corporate boxes in the stand would increase the ground's current 11,000 capacity, and beneath the stand would be state-of-the-art player facilities.
Under the deal, the transport agency agrees to spend up to $11.35m on a stand that will mitigate the visual impact of the flyover on the Basin.
Although the parties have agreed to work in a spirit of co-operation, it is understood the trust essentially demanded that NZTA agreed to the proposal.
The agency is also understood to have been wary of the power wielded by Wellington city councillor and Basin Reserve Trust member John Morrison who could have drummed up opposition around the council table and organised significant opposition from within the sporting community.
Wellington state highways manager Rod James said the transport agency recognised the recreational and historic importance of the Basin.
"But it wouldn't be appropriate for the NZTA to comment on what specific mitigation measures are under consideration until public engagement is over, so as to not unduly influence public feedback on these proposals."
Mr James said "no funding commitment had been agreed by the NZTA for any mitigation measure".
But the conditional agreement he endorsed in a letter this week to the Basin Reserve Trust showed that the agency would do all it could to make the new stand a reality if the preferred option went ahead. "This commitment is subject to obtaining all of the necessary statutory authorisations ... consents from landowners and occupiers ... and funding and statutory approvals for the relevant aspects of the project (including for the stand)."
A formal agreement would be entered into between the parties that would capture this intention, Mr James said in the letter.
Basin Reserve Trust board chairman Doug Catley said the position of the trust had remained consistent since a flyover was first proposed in 2008.
"The integrity of the ground really rests with our ability to play tests and first-class cricket. Having a motorway and traffic zooming to and fro in full view of the batsmen would have seriously detracted from that.
"The only possible mitigation, in our view, was to build a stand to block the [flyover] from the view of batsmen."
Mr Morrison, a former test cricketer, said the stand would tidy up what was a "messy" part of the ground.
"There is the Soviet-style toilet block, a shipping container, a hotdog stand, and the wind whistles through there.
"To be able to block it off and have state-of-the-art facilities would just be an unbelievable boost for the ground."
Although the Basin Reserve is a venerated test cricket venue, its player facilities under the RA Vance Stand date back to 1978 when cricket squads consisted of 12 players and a couple of managers. Now the squads regularly number up to 25.
"The new stand would allow us to upgrade our facilities to maintain the Basin's position as a world-class test ground," Mr Morrison said.
Public consultation closes on August 26 and a decision on which option will go ahead is expected about the end of the year.
HISTORY OF THE BASIN RESERVE
Became Wellington's home of cricket in December 1866
First match played in January 1868
Is the oldest first class ground in
New Zealand First test match played on January 24, 1930
Has been venue for 51 tests and more than 400 first class games
- © Fairfax NZ News
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