Christchurch's AMI Stadium's future in doubt

GREG FORD
Last updated 05:00 30/07/2011
SORRY SIGHT: Christchurch's AMi Stadium is likely to be out of action for months after severe damage in  last month's earthquake.
THE PRESS

SORRY SIGHT: Christchurch's AMi Stadium.

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Christchurch Earthquake 2011

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AMI Stadium looks set to become the latest high-profile casualty of the Christchurch earthquakes.

Several high-level rugby sources have confirmed the ground is in a far more serious state of disrepair than previously disclosed.

One described the ground as "knackered" and said "there's no way" the Crusaders will play at the ground next year.

Another added the venue, which has been the heart of Canterbury sport for more than a century, may never reopen in its current guise.

More importantly, the foundations of the Deans and Paul Kelly stands sank in the February earthquake and need to be levelled.

Engineering reports detail the damage, but offer no cast-iron solutions on how to fix it. One option would be to pour tonnes of concrete under the stands, creating a man-made platform, which could then be used as the base to jack the stands back to the level.

However, if salvage work does go ahead, no guarantee can be given it would work. New construction techniques written about only in theoretical terms would need to be designed.

The second horn of the dilemma – the expense – now appears prohibitive.

AMI Stadium did have earthquake and business interruption insurance. But the degree of uncertainty around the risky rebuild means it would take years to fix.

It may be more cost-effective to walk away and rebuild on a new site less at risk of liquefaction.

City officials have already cast their eye south to Dunedin where their smaller, yet state-of-the-art, covered stadium was built for about $190 million. It will be opened next month in time to host Rugby World Cup games.

The Christchurch City Council is staying mum and has turned down requests by The Press for information. It owns the ground on behalf of ratepayers.

Last month the venue's management company, Vbase, was stopped by council from making details of the reports public.

In June, The Press also reported the earthquake-damaged Hadlee Stand was rumoured to be set for demolition.

Vbase chief executive Bryan Pearson said it was still not certain the northern stand, named after the famous Canterbury cricketing family, would be bowled.

"There is potential for that [for the stand to be demolished]. Hopefully, we'll know more over the next few weeks."

Some stakeholders, including those in the sporting community, have been "kept in the loop" and confidential information is starting to trickle into the public arena.

One source familiar with the contents of the engineers' reports spoke on the condition of anonymity and said: "I can't see [sport] being played there again. The place is stuffed."

The Crusaders, meanwhile, are preparing themselves for life without AMI. Plans are afoot to play more games in Nelson and Timaru next year.

Rugby League Park in Addington is being eyed as a potential temporary home for the team. Rugby Park in St Albans is being road-tested during the ITM Cup campaign but has been all but ruled out.

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- The Press

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