New stand proposal needs close scrutiny

Last updated 13:00 25/01/2013

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OPINION: Is a legacy project required for the city - or perhaps by the current council? Nelson Mayor Aldo Miccio is suggesting a new 3000 to 5000-seat covered stand for Trafalgar Park could be just the ticket. In discussing the bid for a slice of Fifa under-20 football World Cup action in 2015, Mr Miccio says the old stand will have to be replaced one day. While no such project is currently on the council's books, he says the idea is "on the council's radar".

There's no harm in dipping a toe in the water of public opinion. That's something mayors do. We expect our political representatives to put forward ideas, good or bad, show leadership, and look for ways to build and improve public facilities. However, surely too many hoops would have to be jumped through in order to get a multimillion-dollar facility of this nature completed in time for a tournament just two years away. The plan-consent-tender-construction process takes its own sweet time. And let's not forget about consultation.

The council is soon to embark on the annual plan process, so it's a great time for community discussion on ideas and priorities. Do ratepayers want more involvement in international sporting tournaments? Where do these sit alongside projects like the School of Music upgrade, Saxton Field, basic infrastructure or other art and cultural facilities?

Rugby World Cup participation was a success on some levels, in particular community involvement. It is, in fact, a council legacy in its own right, as are the substantial improvements made to Trafalgar Park, with a scruffy and underwhelming eyesore at the city's gateway transformed into an attractive facility. However, the need for a new 3000-5000-seat stadium at the park is yet to be established - a task likely to prove difficult. Nelson could not fill Trafalgar Park for a Super 15 rugby quarterfinal, and none of the World Cup games were booked out.

As for the round-ball code, there are high hopes for football in Nelson with the Falcons off to a flying start in the ASB national youth league premiership, and rightly so. However, for the team's first outing this month against defending champions Canterbury United, and with lots of publicity and free entry, there were just 1100 spectators. In other words, there was plenty of capacity in the new stands - and only three people in the old one throughout the first half. So, at this stage the Falcons are not a factor in terms of justifying significant new spending at the park.

It will be interesting to see how much enthusiasm there is for the Nelson Fifa bid, both from cup organisers and Nelson residents and ratepayers. Among the nine centres in the running for between six and eight cup venues, the Christchurch council seems to be very keen and Otago's strongly opposed, if reported comments this week from the other South Island contenders are accurate.

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Nelson's council has approved spending $500,000 to secure pool matches. This falls short of expectations, reportedly by up to another $500,000, although negotiations are continuing. A slice of the action from hosting international events is great for the city, but not at any price. Hopefully, some hard talking and lateral thinking will suffice, without the need for more ratepayer involvement.

- The Nelson Mail

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