Bowled over: Basin Reserve's Museum Stand could be floored by wrecking ball
Wellington's mayor is steaming in off a long run-up, and his target is the Basin Reserve's historic Museum Stand.
The heritage-listed stand, which once contained the players' tea room, was opened on New Year's Day 1925, but has not been open to spectators since 2012 because it is earthquake-prone.
Strengthening it could cost up to $8 million, but knocking it down is estimated to cost about $800,000.
After years of debate on its future, Wellington City Council is aiming to make a decision by August. And it is now clear what mayor Justin Lester and his deputy Paul Eagle prefer.
* Basin Reserve risks becoming 'tier two' venue unless work hastens
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* Funding bid pending to upgrade Basin Reserve
"It's going to be a very expensive option to have it strengthened and restored, and I'm not sure that can be achieved," Lester said last week.
But padding up to defend the mayor's bouncers is the Save the Basin Campaign, whose previous efforts to protect the historic ground helped to stop the Basin flyover in its tracks.
Cricket Wellington, the Basin Reserve Trust, and Wellington City Council are all keen to finish off a $21 million masterplan to upgrade the cricket ground, which is slipping down the test cricket batting order, behind Christchurch's Hagley Oval, Dunedin's University Oval, and Seddon Park in Hamilton.
The current closure of the Museum Stand deprives the ground of about 1000 seats, and the masterplan recommends demolishing it and creating a new grassed bank for spectators.
Basin Reserve Trust board member Simon Woolf, who is also a city councillor, said: "It might look pleasing, but it's my personal opinion that the stand is not fit for purpose. The ground needs to increase its capacity, and that's a priority."
If it was set for demolition, he would like to see some of the historic features, such as the facade and interior staircase, retained.
Eagle, a former trust board member, said the board had a resolute desire to bring the stand down and focus ratepayer funding to provide extra amenities.
"The community has said they want more green space, and that is important."
In terms of its heritage status, the stand had not been identified as a "must save" for Wellingtonians, he said.
Lester said decisions on the stand's future were being made now, and a plan with options was set to go out for public consultation in August.
"Strong indications are that the Basin Reserve would prefer to have more open space, but that needs to be balanced against heritage."
Cricket Wellington acting chief executive and Basin Reserve manager Bryan Dickinson said the main focus was keeping the ground relevant for the future, and it boiled down to capacity, which was down to about 6000 at present.
"We can't be enormous, but we feel the ground needs to have a permanent capacity of at least 10,000 to be able to compete [with other grounds for fixtures]."
The trust had concerns this would not happen with the Museum Stand in its current configuration. Strengthening money could be better spent on other amenities and toilets, he said.
Tim Jones, of Save the Basin, said the group was opposed to demolishing the stand and wanted to see the Basin Reserve precinct maintained and enhanced, which included restoring the stand.
"We are under the impression that the council and Basin Reserve Trust have made their minds up some time ago … we want to see that options have been properly explored," he said.
New Zealand Cricket Museum director Jamie Bell, who continues to work in the yellow-stickered building, said he had been given assurances by the trust that the museum would remain at the ground.
"It has been challenging because the future is an ongoing concern for us. We are treading water while we wait to hear what they are going to do."
THE MUSEUM STAND
* Opened on New Year's Day 1925
* The Cricket Museum opened in the stand on November 29, 1987
* The former players' tea room is now a museum gallery.
* The stand subbed in for a South African grandstand in the movie Tangiwai - A Love Story