Rugby Park decision withheld

LOUISE BERWICK AND EVAN HARDING
Last updated 05:00 01/04/2014

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The future of debt-ridden Rugby Park has been decided, but city leaders do not deem necessary to release the interim decision to the public.

The stadium's future has been up in the air for years, with the situation and the $1.5 million owed in debts coming to a head last month.

A meeting held last night behind closed doors to determine the future of Rugby Park involved Southland Outdoor Stadium Trust, Rugby Southland, the Invercargill City Council, the Community Trust of Southland and the Invercargill Licensing Trust.

But representatives from all the groups refused to comment when leaving the meeting, referring questions to stadium trust chairman Ian Tulloch.

However, Tulloch said he would not be releasing the solution to the public before it was reviewed by all the groups and the council.

When asked whether he thought it was necessary to inform Invercargill ratepayers of the solution the meeting had come to, he said he did not believe it was.

He said the community was well represented at the meeting and he was unwilling to divulge any further details.

"I think it's the only way this process can work."

There was "a massive leak" to The Southland Times after the previous meeting and he did not want a repeat of that, he said.

Discussions were well entrenched by 8pm, with the parties seen through the window making points firmly with forceful hand movements.

Many had touted the city council as the obvious owners of the stadium before going into last night's meeting and ratepayers could be shouldering a $200,000 a year maintenance bill if the council is taking it on.

He rebutted the suggestion that the secrecy was unfair on ratepayers who may have to pick up the pieces of the mess.

The stadium trust has three debts lingering over it.

There is a $600,000 debt to Rugby Southland that, if not paid back, would cause the union to become insolvent; a $150,000 debt to Pacific Dawn Ltd, which was formerly owed to South Canterbury Finance; and a $750,000 debt to the Community Trust of Southland, which is secured against the stadium.

The groups have been crunching the numbers for weeks trying to find a solution, but there were four main options.

The first option was for the council to take over the stadium, the community trust wipe the debt it's owed and the licensing trust cover the Pacific Dawn debt.

The second option was for the keys to be handed to the community trust, which secured its $750,000 loan against the stadium.

The third option was to put the stadium on the open market and the final option was to hope a benefactor would say they would help solve the issues, or begin fundraisers.

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Tulloch said the meeting had reached a "positive solution".

 

- The Southland Times

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