3-month wait for Rugby Park deal reveal

LOUISE BERWICK
Last updated 05:00 06/05/2014

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They have discussed the possibilities, covered the financials, and now return to the table to finalise their game plan.

But it will take Invercargill City councillors at least three months to decide whether to take over Rugby Park, home of the Southland Stags.

The city's leaders will meet yet again on a "provisional date", to decide on the future of Rugby Park.

The man behind the flailing trust, which is trying to finalise a solution for the stadium, will not yet release the date.

Southland Outdoor Stadium Trust chairman Ian Tulloch confirmed the meeting involving the city council, Invercargill Licensing Trust, Community Trust of Southland, Rugby Southland and the stadium trust would be held within the next couple of weeks.

But he would not say when the meeting would be until city councillors had been made aware of the date.

The stadium trust held a meeting at the end of March to come up with a solution for the stadium, which is plagued with $1.5 million of debt. The stadium trust had hoped the council would take over the beleaguered facility, but with major debt owed to Rugby Southland, the Community Trust of Southland and Pacific Dawn Ltd, the council was hesitant to take on all the burden.

The groups involved were tasked with finding a solution that would not be to the detriment of any of the parties.

The community trust, which is owed $750,000, has been trying to find a solution that would involve it receiving its loan back from the stadium trust.

It put a proposal forward to the city council last month, detailing how it could receive its funding back and the city council could take ownership of the stadium.

That involved the licensing trust covering a $160,000 debt to Pacific Dawn, and the city council taking control of the stadium.

Documents released under the Official Information Act show the community trust proposed that the city council enter into a licence to occupy agreement with Rugby Southland, and share the profits from the corporate box income and ticket sales.

That agreement would then be listed as an asset on Rugby Southland's balance sheet and it would pay "zero rent" to the council. That asset would replace the asset presently on Rugby Southland's balance sheet, which is a $726,000 loan to Southland Outdoor Stadium Trust.

Rugby Southland would then pay back the $750,000 loan owed to the community trust.

Last month, Community Trust of Southland chairman Tracy Hicks said payments on the $750,000 loan the trust was owed did not begin until 2017.

Hicks said the community trust was proposing that it did not receive any payments until 2020.

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Those payments would be paid back by Rugby Southland in annual $50,000 increments, he said.

The community trust concedes in its proposal that the council would have to consult the public on the plan.

City councillor and finance and policy committee chairman Neil Boniface believes that consultation could take at least three months and even as long as six months to complete the process.

*Information asked for under the Official Information Act has been refused by Invercargill City Council chief executive Richard King.

He refused to release any reports, hypothetical balance sheets and documents relating to the stadium under the act, citing that it could disadvantage or prejudice negotiations.

Minutes of the March meeting were also requested but King said none had been taken.

"No minutes of the meeting held ... on 31 March at 7pm were taken. This was not a meeting organised by the city council."

Correspondence between him and community trust chief executive John Prendergast was also requested but King said none had taken place in March.

- The Southland Times

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