Trust glad to wait till PM free

@devlincollePrime Minister John Key will open the new ILT Stadium Southland in May.

Invercargill MP Eric Roy confirmed yesterday the prime minister would be in the city on May 9 and would set aside time to officially open the stadium.

Mr Key had this week declined the invitation to open the stadium this month, citing his busy schedule, and recommended Deputy Prime Minister and Clutha Southland MP Bill English.

"There have been a few dramas and expectations on when and how but that has all been digested," Mr Roy said.

He acknowledged the work of the stadium trust and would now work with them on the opening.

Mr Key would also have other engagements while in the city, he said.

Stadium Southland trust chairman Acton Smith said he was thrilled the prime minister would honour the people of Southland.

"We had to have someone of his stature do the honours."

Mr Roy had worked on behalf of the National Party to make sure Mr Key got on board, he said.

"We had a major disaster" when the original stadium collapsed under a dumping of snow in September 2010, "and have returned a major asset to the people of Southland".

"There will probably be nothing as big as this built in the city for the next 30 years," Mr Smith said.

He said he understood Mr Key had timing issues and he was not concerned the official opening would be almost three months after the stadium opened to the public.

Stadium trust deputy chairman Alan Dennis said he was thrilled the prime minister recognised the huge significance of the stadium to the Southland community and the importance of the occasion.

"The trust lobbied long and hard for this . . . we got what we wanted. We are pleased Eric Roy did his job and Mr Key saw fit to come." Mr Key would not be disappointed, he said.

Although none of the finer details had been discussed, the official opening would be a memorable occasion.

Meanwhile, there would be a "soft" opening of the stadium on Monday. The squash courts, community courts and climbing walls would be open for public use.

The event courts will open for the first Southern Steel netball game on March 2.

The Southland Times