Embankment roof: O'Brien's still hopeful

Last updated 12:00 13/02/2014

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Paul O'Brien is tenacious when it comes to certain projects.

The Palmerston North businessman is still feeling positive that the Arena Manawatu embankment can have covered seating in the short term, and he won't go away.

He floated the idea in June and so far the support has been verbal. But when he is out and about he is continually quizzed about it.

O'Brien had the backing of 17 Manawatu companies to pay for a roof to be built over the 1960s terraces at a cost of only $300,000.

As he pointed out yesterday, spectators at the superstocks Teams Champs last weekend were lucky to stay dry when rain threatened, but didn't arrive.

He said there was a desire among the Palmerston North City Council management and politicians to do something.

"They acknowledge there is a need to address the issue of no coverage on the embankment," O'Brien said.

"The thing I do find disturbing is I was told it was very important that everything be put in the 10-year plan."

When he asked the question, there was a "deafening silence", nothing in the plan.

He understands there is something in the "2013 recreational strategy" and hopes that could be used to propel the project through the bureaucracy into a shorter-term plan for the Arena complex.

"The mechanics of that have to be looked at." O'Brien said one or two of the company backers had been disappointed with the lack of progress.

"They are not as enthusiastic as they were, but are hanging in there. Let's make it happen."

When he had the cost of the cover re-evaluated by contractors recently, he said there had been only a slight increase. It would be a stretched PVC material cover with a life span of seven to nine years.

As it stands, the review on upgrading Arena Manawatu will not be implemented until next year.

A sticking point could be the height of the proposed roof to include the extra seating put in each year for the superstocks Teams Champs.

Palmerston North mayor Jono Naylor said council staff were still poring over details with the proposers, as well as the public expectations after the roof's life.

He added a roof was unlikely to be in place for this season's ITM Cup rugby competition.

"It would be great if we could cover more people," he said. "And I wouldn't want to look a gift horse in the mouth.

"We're undertaking due diligence to see if it's feasible and where it would fit in long-term."

Naylor couldn't put a timeline on the proposal, saying firstly it was about trying to iron out issues such as putting up a temporary roof at a permanent venue.

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- Manawatu Standard

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