Groups work on stadium schedule

The "no vacancy" sign might soon be up on Saxton Stadium as sport and recreation groups jostle for space on the venue's packed calendar.

Organisations left looking for a new home when the Trafalgar Centre was suddenly closed late last year are establishing a schedule for users, stadium management and the head of Nelson's national basketball team said.

Fico Finance Nelson Giants director Steve Fitchett said they had been meeting weekly with Sport Tasman, which manages the stadium, and representatives of the Saxton Stadium Society to work through the schedule to try to avoid any clashes with events already scheduled, particularly indoor netball.

The Giants basketball team has been based at the Trafalgar Centre for more than three decades, and was thrown into turmoil by the sudden announcement last month the centre was to be closed. It had committed financially to the league this year, which meant it needed to quickly find an alternative venue.

Sports organisations were also having to work around conferences and events planned for the Trafalgar Centre, including part of a large local government conference, and an appearance in Nelson by Scottish comedian Billy Connolly on a forthcoming New Zealand tour.

The council said last month it had allocated a "significant sum" for temporary seating for the Saxton Stadium, which was built as a participation venue and not a spectator venue, to work in the interim with Nelson's basketball fraternity and for other events.

"Where people had concerns was that netball and basketball were on the same day but we think netball will be able to play just as many games," Fitchett said. "With a bit of flexibility it can all work, and we're working through a really good process."

He said a final decision on the venue was to be made this Friday, pending the results of a fire safety report, necessary because of the extra crowds likely to be in the Saxton Stadium.

"We're happy it's going to meet our needs, but we're waiting on that fire report which is a key element," Fitchett said.

"The council has done a particularly good job and we're going to get our 2000 seats [similar capacity to Trafalgar Centre], and I believe netball will also get what they need."

Sport Tasman chief executive Nigel Muir said the situation was exciting and challenging, as it stood to bring a higher profile to the stadium and its use, but the challenge would be in keeping the sports participation elements happy.

"Everyone is mucking in well," he said. "We're meeting weekly with the city council which is also working hard to make this all work and to make the best of a challenging situation."

Muir said the pending fire report was the next big issue.

"We're working with the various codes, event organisers, seating, sound, lighting and catering groups, plus we also need to look at protecting the stadium's new floor," he said.

A flash flood hit Saxton Stadium in April, wrecking the floor. It was closed for several months while a new floor was installed, and reopened only last October.

"There are a few other activities outside sport which we are working on how to prioritise the decision-making," Muir said.