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Stadium plan hits quake snag

ALEX FENSOME
Last updated 05:00 07/04/2014

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A grandstand that would form part of a stadium at Petone proposed as the new home of the Wellington Phoenix is a quake risk, reaching only 5 per cent of the new building standard.

Engineers came to the conclusion when they inspected the 1939 stand at the Petone Recreation Ground last month for the Hutt City Council.

However, the council was told the risk of the stand collapsing in a quake was low and has requested a more detailed report - for $30,000 - to see if it can be strengthened.

If it survives inspection, the stand is planned to form the western end of the proposed Petone Arena for the Wellington Phoenix.

The cost of strengthening it could impact on the $44 million to $48m projected price tag for the 12,000-seat venue.

Wellington Phoenix co-owner Gareth Morgan said something would have to be done about the stand but the cost would have to be considered.

"It would be great to save it because it's got a bit of character. It's nice to have on a stadium but, if it's too much, cost matters."

The stand currently houses spectators for rugby games and other events.

A leaked memo from Bruce Hodgins, head of the council parks and gardens division, advised management on how to deal with the news.

Hodgins said Ian Brewer, the engineer who examined the building, was not willing to give assurances it was safe until a more detailed structural report was finished but had not objected to the council keeping it open for the time being.

Hodgins recommended keeping the stand open as long as rugby clubs were told to minimise use and signs were put up warning people of the quake issue.

An email from city infrastructure general manager Bruce Sherlock to mayor Ray Wallace and other senior management discussed how to deal with media inquiries.

"There may be questions as to how this will impact the arena proposal," Sherlock wrote.

"Council firstly needs to obtain further information as to what work may be required on the stand. Assuming that council would then undertake whatever strengthening work is required, the arena proposal is unchanged."

Speaking yesterday, Sherlock said it was up to politicians and the community to decide how much spending on the grandstand was justified.

"I'm sure the current users would like us to spend the money and retain the asset."

If the engineers said it was in danger of collapsing, the council would not allow it to be used.

"The risk of collapse is very different to the percentage of building standard."

The Petone Rugby Club plays home games at the ground and uses the grandstand regularly.

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Club publicity officer Wayne Smith said it had no qualms about using it.

"It was built in 1939 and there is not a crack in the whole place," he said. "If there was an earthquake it would probably be the first place I'd run to for shelter."

- Fairfax Media

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