Stadium concept 'would be money maker'

01:47, May 02 2013
Christchurch stadium
GRAND SCHEME: A proposal for a new Christchurch stadium with office blocks that would have views of the pitch.

A Christchurch stadium featuring office blocks with views of the pitch would ensure the ground is "a money maker, not a white elephant", designers say.

Christchurch lawyer Geoff Saunders has teamed up with architect Thom Craig to propose a stadium design with seven-storey office blocks on each corner.

The plan has won a positive response from Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee's office.

The Government's recovery blueprint proposed a stadium on the eastern edge of the city, bounded by Madras, Tuam, Hereford and Barbadoes streets.

Saunders, who has 30 years' experience providing legal advice to the former Victory Park Board and Jade Stadium, estimated the office space would generate $11 million in revenue a year.

He said Brownlee's office was positive about the proposal.


"We sent it to someone in Gerry Brownlee's office and he rang back in five minutes saying he loved it and it was exactly what they had been looking for," he said.

A letter to Saunders from Brownlee dated March 5 expresses interest in the idea but states any stadium development would be subject to open tender.

"I have read your proposal with interest and I appreciate your enthusiasm for developing this idea. I am advised that similar types of multi-use stadia are being developed overseas and officials have been looking into such developments with interest,'' it says.

"The Christchurch Central Development Unit would be interested in further development of this idea if you choose to progress it.''

Saunders said his plan was inspired by his time working for Jade Stadium.

"This idea came from my own frustration at going to Jade Stadium for meetings for 30 years and seeing it sitting there completely deserted apart from the groundsman cutting the grass," he said.

"I just thought that with the amount of money being spent on it there needed to be a way to use it a lot more. We want to make the stadium into a money maker rather than a white elephant."

He said the office rent would help the stadium avoid the same fate as the Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, which lost $1.9 million in its first six months.

"Crowds are very cyclical in sports grounds. If you try to do budgets based on income from sports events, it is very challenging," he said.

Saunders said the development would also attract office clients back to the city centre who had left for suburban offices after the earthquakes.

He said the plan was just a concept and he had not investigated how it might be developed and funded.

Craig said it was important to make any new stadium a lively place with offices, hotels, retail and clubs.

"A lot of stadiums are just large objects that sit there and are only used for 30 days of the year. There is an opportunity here to make a very large chunk of the city centre that, rather than being a dead space for most of the year, is much more active," he said.

A spokesman for Brownlee declined to comment.

The Press