What about Newtown for a stadium?

DAVE BURGESS
Last updated 10:49 19/02/2014

OPINION: So plans for a $44 to $48 million, 12,000-seater, purpose-built football stadium at the Petone Rec have been unveiled.

Lower Hutt ratepayers are being asked to front up with $25m. The Nix owners, including Gareth Morgan, and other corporate sponsors will make up the slack. I want a cracking football ground as much as the next Wellington Phoenix fan but Petone is definitely not the first choice location.

Wellington city councillor Paul Eagle has today questioned whether all avenues have been exhausted in looking for a site in the Capital. He wants to see a boutique stadium built at Newtown Park. Phoenix at Newtown Park

My understanding is Newtown Park was ruled out because it was on the Town Belt.The council administers the Town Belt so it can be used by Wellingtonians for recreational purposes. That is what the original deed stipulated.

Watching football falls into that category, so upgrading the ground has no implications in that regard because football is already played there. In fact, the All Whites have used the ground.

And it's not as if Wellingtonians can easily use Newtown Park at the moment. Users of the athletics track, and the football field within it, must have a key to access the gate in the two-metre high fence.

The top football field is the Nix training ground. It was recently fenced off and is locked to the public. So to argue that Newtown Park must be kept as it is for all Wellingtonians to use is disingenuous.

An answer is to relocate the athletics track to another site and build a boutique stadium on the existing Newtown Park footprint.

It would then be used regularly by up to 12,000 Wellingtonians enjoying a spot of recreation on the Town Belt which is exactly what our forefathers wanted when they gifted us - not the council - the land.

If the mayor and city councillors don't join Mr Eagle to do all they can to keep the club based in the Capital then it's an absolute disgrace.

Maybe it will transpire that there really is no suitable location in Wellington City but I, along with Mr Eagle, question whether that is truly the case.

Make no mistake, all Wellington City Council has done so far is to pucker up ready to kiss the Phoenix goodbye.

It gets worse though. The Wellington Lions are contracted to play at Westpac Stadium. My view is as soon as they can get out of that contract, they'll head to the new stadium. Maybe that will be the case with some Hurricanes matches too.

Wellington city councillors - who are elected to represent the ratepayers of Wellington, not Lower Hutt - are ready to impart farewell kisses to all of this, along with the economic activity it produces for the city.

I for one can barely believe that, apart from Mr Eagle, the council has remained silent on the issue.

- The Dominion Post

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