Dismay at $2m velodrome nudge

ELTON SMALLMAN AND JEREMY SMITH
Last updated 05:00 10/05/2014

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A month to the day since the Avantidrome opened, Waipa ratepayers have been asked to find a further $2 million.

This is despite an assurance from the Home of Cycling boss they would not be asked for more.

Avantidrome chief executive Geoff Balme sent in a submission on the Waipa District Council Draft Annual Plan 2014-15 with a request for $2m to fund a "community hub" on the southern wall of the building.

"Our estimates put this development at approximately $4 million and we respectfully ask Waipa District Council to invest $2 million towards the cost," he wrote on the official submission.

But when the Waikato Times spoke to him on Thursday he tried to back out and said it was just an idea he wanted to float.

"We haven't really asked," he said. "We just put that in our letter and then when we did our presentation on Tuesday we didn't ask for it. We just took it [as] more of an opportunity to float it with them because it is only a concept."

When asked why he added the $2m request to the "concept" he said there was "nothing like putting a number in front of somebody to focus their attention".

That concept included a new Home of Champions Museum and extra seating at the 1500-seat venue, which was shown on a 12-page presentation with architect drawings, an artist's impression and project timeline.

Although the Avantidrome is proving a popular attraction, its construction was a controversial issue for years and polarised public opinion in Waikato.

Waipa council rubber-stamped a $1m grant in 2011 and angry ratepayers were hit again when the Waikato Regional Council committed $6m to the velodrome in 2012.

Balme said he did not expect to receive funding this year but Stage 2 would not go ahead without a council contribution.

He said Stage 2 was "new" and a "consequence of our success" and unrelated to the first application to fund construction of the velodrome.

"It's not going back at all on our word," he said. "We've not been back to them to fund what we have built and we certainly won't be going back to them to seek operating funding."

Waipa Citizens and Ratepayers Association chairman Pat Bishop, whom

Balme called a "loser" for his failed mayoral bid, said residents would not "stomach another hit".

"In the submission he is talking about extra seating for the velodrome so that to me tells me it is part of the velodrome," Bishop said.

Ratepayers were promised "faithfully" no more money would be sought.

Mayor Jim Mylchreest said there wasn't a lot of support in the room for the Avantidrome's request, but the final decision would not be made until June, when the annual plan was adopted.

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"Certainly there was absolutely no decision made by the council to dedicate any funding in the coming year to the Home of Cycling Trust," he said.

One council source said that although councillors support the Avantidrome, some are "fuming" at the request.

Cambridge ward representative Sue Milner, said the council would need to be "reasonably cautious".

"I think up to this point council has been very generous," she said. "And while we do appreciate the fact that there have been a number of benefits to Cambridge and the wider region from having the Avantidrome there are a number of other projects we would also like to advance."

Fellow Cambridge ward councillor Liz Stolwyk concurred. "The Avantidrome has gone from strength to strength but we can't do these big projects all the time, that's the reality."

The request went to the council's strategic planning and policy committee, and chairman John Bishop said the district had many demands on its funds.

"We have also got to make sure we are looking after the infrastructure we already have."

- Waikato Times

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