Stadium saviour likely to be ICC

Poll: Rugby Park has been saved and Invercargill ratepayers are the new owners, it can be revealed.

Two weeks after a closed-doors meeting at Rugby Park HQ in Tweed Street where community leaders met to thrash out a last-gasp solution for the cash-strapped home of the Southland Stags, the Southland Times can reveal that the council will be handed the keys this year.

The decision has not been ratified by the major players - the Invercargill City Council, Community Trust of Southland and Invercargill Licensing Trust - and there is still the possibility that this agreement could fall over.

But the interim solution that the city's leaders have taken back to their boards could solve the woes of the Southland Outdoor Stadium Trust, the owners of the stadium.

The solution will mean the council will be the new owners of the multi-million dollar stadium, and ratepayers will be footing the maintenance bill for years to come.

Then there's the $600,000 debt owed to Rugby Southland by the Southland Outdoor Stadium Trust, but the council look likely to pick that up as well.

But ratepayers will not be signing a cheque for that debt just yet.

Plans are afoot for the council to pay off the debt to Rugby Southland in lieu of the union paying rent to use the facility.

The maintenance that needs to be done can not be ignored and requires between $200,000 and $300,000 a year to keep the stadium in good order, which could mean a rates increase - or the council could delve into its facility fund which has already been rated for.

The city councillors are yet to

vote on the bail out package, but it is believed the solution will scrape through and the majority will vote in favour.

However, the major debt which has been enveloping the stadium is the one owed to the Community Trust of Southland.

The $750,000 debt has been the headache that everyone has been trying to solve.

The groups have been nutting out a way to return the money back to the community trust, which has contributed millions to rugby in the last decade.

It is understood that debt will be wiped over time.

The community trust has been up front about reducing the funding it gives to clubs and sports groups over the next three years to help build its capital for the future.

That policy may now have to be reviewed for rugby if the interim solution is to work for everybody.

The funding given to Rugby Southland would have to remain consistent to allow Rugby Southland to use some of the extra funding to pay back the community trust.

The $750,000 loan was part of a bail out package for Rugby Southland, but had to be funnelled through the stadium trust to be secured against the stadium.

Whether the $750,000 debt will lie on Rugby Southland's books or the community trust's books once the council takes over the stadium is unknown.

The final debt owed to Pacific Dawn Ltd would then be covered by the Invercargill Licensing Trust, worth $150,000. Both the council and community trust will meet next week.


The Southland Times