New stadium plan 'smart, bold'

DAVID KILLICK
Last updated 09:05 08/05/2013
Christchurch Stadium proposal
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PROPOSAL: Christchurch Stadium concept by architect Thom Craig of AMO Design.

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The Christchurch Stadium proposal is smart, bold, exciting and ingenious. It promises to enliven the city centre while also attracting visitors and new business.

OPINION: The proposal, by architect Thom Craig of AMO Design, has been developed together with lawyer Geoff Saunders, who has 30 years' experience advising the Victory Park and Jade Stadium boards.

Saunders knows a thing or two about the business side of sports administration and he is clearly passionate about Canterbury's sporting future.

What Saunders emphatically does not want to see is a white elephant - a sports stadium that stands empty except when a match is played.

The same risk applies to stadiums everywhere, as Cathleen McGuigan, editor-in-chief of prestigious United States magazine Architectural Record, pointed out when she visited this year.

I have questioned whether we need a stadium in the central city, but this design makes sense.

The concept is simple but highly practical - make the stadium multi-use.

Four seven-storey office blocks, each with 1000-square-metre floor plates, on each corner provide accommodation for about 5600 tenants. Hotels on each of the longer sides comprise 200 rooms.

Revenue also comes from shops, cafes, and restaurants, car parking, a pool and a gym (a possible alternative to Centennial Pool).

There would also be elevated pedestrian plazas. Both visitors and tenants could use these facilities. Base rent for the office towers, estimated at $11 million to $12m a year, plus operating expenses and costs and car parking, would help to defray construction and maintenance costs.

The stands accommodate up to 28,000 spectators. That makes sense, too.

Some games attract only a few thousand people. There would be no point in building a mega-stadium to accommodate tens of thousands for big matches that might take place only occasionally.

Unlike Dunedin, where locals complain about the cost inflicted on ratepayers by the city's new covered stadium, Christchurch would get one that is economically viable.

It is this level-headed business plan that makes this proposal look like a winner.

Some office suites and hotel rooms will get a rather special view, and you can imagine there will be a clamour to stay late at the office when a big game is on.

The name deserves a mention - Christchurch Stadium, or Taiwhanga Hakinakina in Maori. Not Lancaster Park, which was associated with the old stadium. Not Jade or AMI or another corporate sponsor.

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It's clear and simple. Let's be proud of Christchurch. The four office towers would be named Hadlee, Deans, Doig and Snell.

Transportation is a major bugbear with sporting events, so there are hubs for buses or a future light-rail system, as well as car parks.

The design features a retracting translucent roof. When retracted it will provide shade for outdoor seating areas. Translucent solar mesh material filters the light.

Craig says it looks like a basket weave and evokes a korowhai, or Maori cloak.

LED lighting will create special effects. The walls could be lit up in different colours, depending on who is playing.

LEDs light up public buildings and landmarks around the world. LEDs use a fraction of the energy of incandescent bulbs and last 30 times longer.

Imagine an illuminated new Christchurch Stadium. It could be an icon for the new city.

Craig worked on Wellington's Cake Tin and New Plymouth's stadium.

He says Christchurch's stadium will incorporate the latest seismic isolation technology, and AMO Design has been researching architectural engineering worldwide.

Today's architects have to be engineers, too.

That is reassuring. I would not have wanted to be on the top of Jade Stadium (or AMI or whatever it was called that week) when a big earthquake struck.

I have to confess I am not a huge rugby fan - the season seems to go on just about all year now. You can see the action in close-up on television.

Still, there is something to be said for going to a live match. It's the atmosphere. Watching a game from up in the gods in the old stadium felt rather isolated.

Last year we decided to check out the new temporary stadium. The Crusaders pounded straight for us. We were part of the action, and ignored the bitterly cold weather.

The new stadium could host concerts, making it more versatile, but not cricket.

Hagley Park would be a superb venue for cricket. Brian Priestley wrote a book about a historic 19th-century cricket match against Australia at Hagley Park.

Twenty-first-century buildings need to be attractive and not detract from the park. Traffic needs to be minimised. That's easy - run regular extra bus services.

I would love to see a first-class international tennis stadium in Christchurch, but we would need another venue.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee will make the ultimate decision on the new Christchurch Stadium, but this proposal has clear merits and deserves to succeed.

Have your say on architecture and the Christchurch rebuild by commenting below or send an email to letters@press.co.nz.

- The Press

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