Plans for Basin floodlights glow

LIGHT 'EM UP: Wellington cricket ground the Basin Reserve looks set to have floodlights installed so night matches can be played at the historic venue.
LIGHT 'EM UP: Wellington cricket ground the Basin Reserve looks set to have floodlights installed so night matches can be played at the historic venue.

The Basin Reserve could be bathed in floodlight sooner than first thought, opening up the prospect of other sporting codes making the boutique ground their home.

The Basin Reserve Trust and Cricket Wellington are already investigating the installation of lights at the historic central Wellington venue, but those plans have assumed greater urgency after yesterday's announcement that New Zealand and Australia could start playing day-night test matches as early as next year.

That opens up the possibility of the Basin becoming home to teams such as the Wellington Lions NPC rugby team, or the Wellington Phoenix in the future.

Welnix, the owners of the Phoenix, have made no secret of their desire to take the team away from Westpac Stadium, where the team has trouble filling even a third of the 35,000 seats. It proposed developing a 12,000-seat venue at Petone, but the plans were rejected by Lower Hutt councillors last month.

The Wellington Rugby Football Union is contractually tied to Westpac Stadium, but did look at using the Basin Reserve as a training base during the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Cricket Wellington chief executive Peter Clinton said that, with Dunedin's University Oval and Hagley Oval in Christchurch both due to emulate Eden Park, Seddon Park and McLean Park in having floodlights, the Basin's position could be under threat.

"We are looking at the cost and the likelihood and the need [for lights], and that extends beyond just cricket," he said.

"My understanding is [the WRFU] are locked into the [Westpac] stadium, as far as games go. But if lights were a longer-term result here, then it opens up the ground for a much wider usage, certainly in the winter time."

Clinton favoured fixed lights, but said cost and environmental impact would determine whether permanent, temporary or retractable ones were erected.

"The Basin has a number of challenges," he said.

"Even if we decide that lights would be advantageous, and we could line up the funding and make a good business case for it, we'd still have to engage with an environmental process that allowed them to be erected.

"Judging by some of the opposition to the [Basin Reserve] flyover, I imagine that would be reasonably strong."

Wellington City Council community, sport and recreation committee chairman Paul Eagle said his preference was to see the Phoenix exhaust all avenues with Westpac Stadium before entertaining a move to the Basin Reserve. But he liked the idea of playing more Lions games and club rugby at the Basin, which would rejuvenate both sports as well as the ground itself.

"Maybe it's time we did a bit of reshuffling."

Helping fund floodlights was something the council would be open to, he said.

Wellington Phoenix general manager David Dome said the lack of fixed seating and modern corporate facilities at present meant the Basin would struggle to meet the requirements of a regular A-League venue.

The shape of the ground was also an issue, as the Phoenix's preference was to play football on a purpose-built rectangle, he said.

New Zealand Cricket and Cricket Australia announced yesterday that the two nations could meet in test cricket's first day-night match, in either Hobart or Adelaide, in November next year.

NZC chief executive David White expected that would be the catalyst for "maybe one game a series" being played under lights, using a pink ball for better night-time visibility, in this country.

The Dominion Post