Cheaper food, parks get nod over roof

TALIA SHADWELL AND KATIE CHAPMAN
Last updated 05:00 11/06/2014
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Adding a roof to Westpac Stadium is unlikely to solve its problems with attracting crowds, sports fans believe.

The stadium and Wellington City Council have commissioned a feasibility study to consider a roof, after years of stadium heads dismissing the idea as too expensive.

This week chief executive Shane Harmon said any decision to build a roof would require ratepayer funding, as the cost was likely to be between $60 million and $100m.

The study was a way to get answers about what was involved, as well as looking at possible reconfigurations of seating, but was not a commitment to build a roof, he said.

The study comes after Harmon outlined plans in April to address declining crowds at the ground's regular rugby and soccer fixtures.

But stadium regulars say other elements should take priority over a roof.

Evan Belford, founder of Hurricanes fan group The Flying Squadron, said if the stadium's bosses wanted to win over fans, cheaper food and parking were the place to start.

Mike Greene, founder of Wellington Phoenix fan club Yellow Fever, said it was possible measures to shield spectators from the weather could be a crowd-pleaser.

"It might draw more punters if you're talking about ‘fair-weather' fans, because some people are probably put off by the weather. But I'm not one to be put off - and that probably goes for most of the fan group, who would be there rain or shine."

Greene predicted Wellington ratepayers would not readily open their wallets to cover the stadium, judging by the reaction to the proposed arena at Petone Recreation Ground.

"I think people would be opposed. I'm pretty sure, given by what happened with Petone, it's unlikely the public will want the spending, and particularly people who are not interested in sports will be up in arms about it."

He said football fans had been hoping for rectangular stands to get closer to the action.

The feasibility study, to be completed by August, is being done by international architect firm Populous, which built the stadium, as well as Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.

Senior principal Richard Breslin, who is leading the study, said there was a growing trend internationally to add roofs to stadiums, due to "an increasing requirement for spectator comfort".

But adding a roof was complicated, and in Wellington factors such as the strength of the existing stadium, quake-strengthening, ground conditions and wind had to be factored into any design - as well as ensuring the grass on the pitch could still grow.

Early indications were that a self-standing structure would be a better fit at the stadium, but all options would be explored, he said.

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"It's not always possible to just come back and plonk a roof down."

Full, partial and retractable roofs would all be investigated.

"It's coming up with an efficient and effective way to try and do that which is as cost-effective as you can possibly get."

- The Dominion Post

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