Getting it right vital for covered seating

MATTHEW DALLAS
Last updated 12:00 02/07/2013

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OPINION: The enthusiasm from the private sector towards investing in covered seating on the embankment at FMG Stadium has provided confidence that businessman Paul O'Brien's plan will come to fruition.

However, it would be rash for anyone to think the presence of private funding could or should allow bureaucracy to be bypassed.

Mr O'Brien has indicated there is plenty of support among Manawatu corporates to meet the estimated $300,000 cost of providing covered seating to the FMG embankment. The fairly humble budget and private buy-in should speed up the process in some respects. After all, acquiring the funding for a project is usually half the battle - particularly if it's public cash and several consultative requirements are triggered.

But the city council still has a strategic responsibility to look at "the big picture" for FMG Stadium, and to gauge any short-term benefits against the long term aspirations.

Mayor Jono Naylor has rightly greeted the proposal with as much prudence as optimism.

What will Manawatu need from its premier sporting venue in 10 years time? Twenty years time?

Is permanent covered seating a realistic long term ambition? Should the embankment project be part of a wider vision to reach this end?

These are the sort of questions that need to be addressed as much in the community as they do inside the council chamber and with industry partners.

The importance of the stadium to Palmerston North is huge, both in terms of the city's sporting culture and economically.

Events, most prominently rugby and speedway, generate a lot of money for the region - the Superstock Teams Championships alone contributing about $1.1 million.

The introduction of a cloth-like cover to the embankment, with a lifespan of 10 years, would further enhance its value and encourage sports fans to leave the couch in winter.

When faced with what looks like a win-win venture, the impulse may understandably be "get it done right now".

But the action still needs to be "let's get it done right - for now and the future".

ONE MORE THING: Still on stadiums, it is sad that Carisbrook sports ground in Dunedin is due its last rites, now that the city's council has sold it to a construction firm for demolition. Even for those of us who never experienced the iconic venue beyond what was captured by the television cameras, it has always held a treasured place in the New Zealand sporting landscape.

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