Stadium keen to secure Phoenix

DAVE BURGESS
Last updated 05:00 20/02/2014

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A multi-million dollar upgrade of Westpac Stadium should be considered as part of the debate around the proposed Petone Arena, stadium boss Shane Harmon says.

He believed a wider discussion was needed around a "future venue strategy" for the region over the next 20 to 50 years, which took into consideration that Wellington's local government might be amalgamed into a super city.

"That includes any boutique stadium, calls from some quarters for an indoor arena, the Basin Reserve, and it includes Westpac Stadium and what can be done there."

An option for Westpac Stadium could be to retrofit retractable stands to bring fans closer to the on-field action, he said.

"But it's not simply the matter of putting rails under the stands and wheeling them out. You would probably have to rebuild those stands.

"I don't have any indication of what the likely cost would be, but I suspect you'd be looking at tens of millions of dollars."

All councils in the Wellington region were invited to a meeting, led by Sport Wellington, on February 13 to discuss ways to form a strategy to enable a co-operative approach to regional planning and securing the investment needed for sport and recreation.

Earlier this week, Wellington Phoenix co-owner Gareth Morgan floated the idea of a 12,000-seat football stadium at the Petone Recreation Ground.

Lower Hutt ratepayers would have to come up with $25 million of its $45m-$48m cost. The Phoenix owners and other backers would pay the remainder.

The proposal will have several hurdles to cross, starting with a meeting of concerned residents at the Petone Baptist Church, in Buick St, at 7pm on Monday.

Phoenix owners want to play the club's home games at the proposed Petone Arena to enhance the club's financial future.

Harmon said the Phoenix were on an exceptionally competitive venue hire deal, but added that crowds of 6000-7000 did not generate a lot of revenue for the stadium.

"But we want the Phoenix to remain here. We would rather work with them to continue to build their crowd."

The Thistle Inn assistant manager Mick Stavrides said losing Phoenix games would hurt the historic pub's bottom line.

"We never open on a Sunday unless there is a game on at the stadium. So it would definitely have a financial impact."

Harmon accepted the stadium could do better to improve hospitality. To that end a Mezzanine Lounge, with views of the harbour and available to fans before and after matches, was set to open in April.

Within a month, the stadium will install "food carts," either on the concourse or on the plaza, to provide a wider range of food.

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Other improvements are planned for the Fran Wilde Walk, and possibly to replace chunks of the stadium's exterior cladding with windows to bring "Wellington into the stadium".

Harmon said no public money was used to fund the stadium's operations, maintenance or upgrades.

- The Dominion Post

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