Long wait for stadium 'will be worth it'

COLLETTE DEVLIN
Last updated 05:00 18/09/2013
The Rebuild of Stadium Southland
NICOLE GOURLEY/Fairfax NZ Zoom
Southland Times photographers have covered the rebuild of Stadium Southland.

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Since day one, the Stadium Southland rebuild has been plagued by delays and controversy, which have hampered progress and resulted in a host of big sporting events being cancelled.

The setbacks have resulted in the opening date being postponed on numerous occasions.

Three years later, Stadium Southland trust bosses said they were not letting delays hamper efforts to build the biggest and best stadium possible.

They were adamant the wait would be worth it for the Southland community.

Southland Indoor Leisure Centre Charitable Trust chairman Acton Smith said the setbacks would ensure the safety of the community, and the stadium would have a "wow" factor and attract international acts and sporting events.

"This will be the single biggest asset in Southland for years to come," he said.

In 2000, the original Stadium Southland was built for $10 million and it became Invercargill's sporting and cultural hub before collapsing under a heavy dumping of snow on September 18, 2010.

About 30 people were inside the building but no-one was hurt.

Just three days after the collapse, Stadium Southland general manager Nigel Skelt got permission to buy a $150,000 replacement wooden court to be installed in the adjacent velodrome so the Southern Steel netball and Southland Sharks basketball franchises could play in front of Southland fans in 2011.

The velodrome has remained the home base for the two teams ever since.

In November 2010, initial plans were unveiled to rebuild a new Stadium Southland, bigger and stronger than its predecessor.

Just a month later, a Stadium Southland review committee investigation found the stadium collapse because of faults in engineering, inadequate workmanship, and snow that pushed it beyond its structural limitations.

The rebuild of the new stadium began in March 2011 and its opening date was optimistically touted as March 30, 2012.

Although the new stadium was designed to meet the building code criteria, a peer review of its design in the winter of 2011 raised concerns that it may collapse if another disaster of unusual proportions struck.

It was agreed the new stadium should be strengthened.

In August 2011, the stadium bosses announced the rebuild would take months longer to complete than expected and in February 2012 the rebuild was again delayed, after steel frames were built too short.

In September 2012, stadium bosses announced the rebuild will not be completed until the winter of 2013.

Soon after, the estimated stadium costs ballooned to more than $40m - $11.5m more than the original estimate.

In July, the opening date was yet again put back, this time until October or November.

Trust bosses have not given an exact date for the stadium opening but a Christmas variety show has been organised in the stadium for December 20, 2013.

The stadium would have a "gala opening" in February 2014, stadium bosses said.

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