New city sports hub mooted for Christchurch

TONY SMITH
Last updated 05:00 22/02/2013

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Several major Canterbury sporting codes including tennis, hockey, rugby league and football could be clustered at a southwest Christchurch site.

Most of the targeted sports, with athletics a notable exception, are in favour of the "hubbing" concept at the Nga Puna Wai development on council-owned land to the south of the Canterbury A and P Show Grounds in Curletts Rd.

They see the site as "a greenfields option" for replacing traditional Christchurch sporting venues destroyed in the earthquakes, including tennis' Wilding Park and hockey's Porritt Park artificial turfs.

Christchurch City Council officials were unavailable yesterday to confirm details about the Nga Puna Wai development. The Press understands they want it to go ahead but would like athletics as a key anchor tenant and that gym sports might be another potential user.

Sport Canterbury is helping facilitate the discussions.

The council, which is looking to appoint a project manager to oversee the Nga Puna Wai and metropolitan sports facilities clusters, still has some issues to look at, including geotech land surveys and rezoning requirements.

Canterbury Tennis chief executive Neil Prior yesterday "complimented the council" on the concept. But the Canterbury Rugby Football League CRFL), which has seen its traditional Addington base redeveloped as AMI Stadium, wants a firmer indication of the project's viability.

"We are exploring [Nga Puna Wai] as an option, there's no doubt about that," Prior said. "We see it as a greenfields option that has real potential for sports in this region to collaborate, not just on the co-location of facilities but also how they can work together as codes."

Prior said there would be an opportunity for some "economies of scale" if sports shared administration, high performance and sports science amenities.

"It's a very forward-thinking solution . . . it's almost an international situation that the earthquake has brought about."

Prior said the full details had not been revealed. "They are concepts but exciting concepts."

Canterbury Tennis would decide about its future home in the next few months but "there doesn't seem to be a lot of other options" for purchasing land at a commercial rate and the council was the major holder of leasehold land in Christchurch. The population shift in Christchurch "post-earthquakes" indicated the major future growth would be in the southwest, west and northwest of the city, Prior said.

CRFL general manager Craig Kerr liked the "sports hubbing" concept "so we can all leverage off each other and share facilities and common areas". He said the CRFL would support the Nga Puna Wai concept but was concerned the council had done "little or no work on identifying whether it's a realistic option".

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It was hard for sports to plan ahead until "we have been advised that it's a goer".

Kerr said rugby league was "desperate for a home" after losing Rugby League Park in 2012 to the AMI Stadium development. His code needed an enclosed ground to host major club and representative fixtures.

Junior rugby league is played at the Canterbury Park showgrounds facility and Kerr said there had been no transport or access problems.

Canterbury Hockey chief executive Rod Templeton said Nga Puna Wai was "a very exciting development". To hold national and international matches, hockey needed two water-based turfs to replace those at Porritt Park.

"The reality is the hubbing concept is Christchurch's future."

Mainland Football has its headquarters at St Albans' English Park where the ASB Football Park artificial turf is based but chief executive Mike Coggan said the federation was keen on the Nga Puna Wai concept. Its "technical team" would remain at English Park but there were opportunities to share administration facilities at Nga Puna Wai and to use "additional playing fields in the southwest".

Coggan said Mainland Football was also keen to develop another artificial pitch but had identified an urgent need for better-drained grounds to train and play on.

- The Press

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