Stadium takeover is costly for city

NEIL RATLEY AND LOUISE BERWICK
Last updated 05:00 18/11/2013
Rugby Park Stadium, in Invercargill

Rugby Park Stadium, in Invercargill.

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Saving the home of the Southland Stags comes with a hefty price tag for ratepayers.

The Invercargill City Council looks set to take over Rugby Park Stadium and ratepayers will be asked to pay $142,000 a year in maintenance costs for the next 25 years.

The figure does not include costs to strengthen part of Rugby Park Stadium to earthquake standards or a $750,000 debt owed to the Community Trust of Southland by Rugby Park's owner, the Southland Outdoor Stadium Trust.

Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt said last week the council was in negotiations to take over the $10 million Rugby Park Stadium and conceded it was unlikely the council had any choice.

Despite Rugby Park being a regional facility, Mr Shadbolt said yesterday he did not expect the other southern councils to help cover its running costs.

"We will certainly reach out to them but they can argue Invercargill businesses gets most of the benefits when there is a big game on," he said.

Figures in the Rugby Park maintenance report compiled by Invercargill City Council asset manager Paul Horner show ratepayers would have to pay an average of $142,500 a year in maintenance costs to keep the stadium up to scratch.

This adds up to more than $3.5 million in the next 25-years, the report says.

Mr Horner said the work included replacing roofing, carpet and plumbing and doing ongoing repair work.

An earthquake evaluation report has revealed the original West Stand is below earthquake standards, with the bleachers and beams needing to be replaced. He did not know the costs involved.

Southland Outdoor Stadium Trust chairman Ian Tulloch said the trust traditionally covered all its Rugby Park costs but it was getting harder.

The loss of the Highlanders games would add to those difficulties and mounting administration costs through Rugby Southland were forcing the trust's hand, he said.

Rugby Park crowds were made up of 45 per cent from Invercargill, 40 per cent from the Southland District and 15 per cent from other areas, Mr Tulloch said.

Environment Southland chairman Ali Timms said its policy was specifically against funding things such as stadiums.

Gore District Mayor Tracy Hicks said Rugby Park was definitely a regional facility and important for all Southlanders so ownership and a secure future was important.

But the Gore District Council had not considered ownership at this stage, he said.

Southland District Mayor Gary Tong said he knew little about the issue and was unable to comment.

Rugby Southland general manager Brian Hopley said he thought little would change for the union if the council took over the stadium but he was yet to have discussions with the council about its plans.

Community Trust of Southland chairman Tracy Hicks said if the Invercargill City Council took over Rugby Park the trust would consider its options surrounding the $750,000 it is owed.

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- The Southland Times

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