Monthly Archives: July 2008

Get out of my freaking face!!!

If you are the Anti-Stadium person who didn’t take no for an answer the other day at the Farmers Market, get the message now. Sod Off.

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Filed under Stadiums

Stadiums within budget

It has been suggested by those opposed to the development of the new Carisbrook stadium, that it is more likely indeed probable that the stadium will run over cost, and significantly too. At the StS public meeting the other night figures of anywhere up to $200m cost over-runs were suggested, taking the cost close to $400m. I have been told that the stadia landscape is littered with stadiums which did not come within budget.

Assuming that not every stadium in the world came in over budget (or outside of the accounted for over-runs), I decided to investigate. Leaving aesthetic sensibilities aside (new American Ball Parks are amusement parks), this is what I discovered.

The Great American Ball Park. Home of the Cincinnati Reds Baseball team.
Architects, none other than the very same HOK sport whom are the Carisbrook Archiects.
Constructed, 2000-2003
Capacity 42,000
Cost, $290m USD
Budget, YES

Lucas Oil Stadium. Home of the Indianapolis Colts American Football Team.
Architects, HKS, Inc.
Constructed. Nearing completion (2008 )
Capacity. Max 70,000 (indoor)
Cost $750m USD
Budget. According to latest reports (July 16, 2008), within budget.

Emirates Stadium, London. Home of Arsenal Football Team
Architects. Again HOK Sport (our architects)
Cost. $430 million pounds stirling.
Capacity, 60,000
Budget. Yes

Yes, there are stadiums, convention centres and other civic construction projects which have blown their budgets, but my point here is that not all do (as claimed), and it is quite possible to see which do come within budget. Even more reassuring is that HOK Sports are behind 2 of the first 3 new modern stadiums which are within budget.

I will add to this list when I find more that are worth a look.


Filed under Architecture, Stadiums

Meanwhile my beloved Everton…

Is going through a very similar process of stadium development. It runs deeper though, in that the proposed development will see Everton Football Club relocate out of Liverpool to the small town of Kirkby on the outskirts of the city.


Filed under Architecture, Design, Media, Site, Stadiums

Stop the Stadium meeting

Just back from the Stop the Stadium meeting at Burns Room of First Church in Dunedin this evening. Possibly not enough time to go through my notes in detail, however there are a number of issues that I will address this evening. Sorry, couldn’t help myself, this is a long post warning.

In the interest of balance and fairness, I entered the ‘enemy’ territory tonight, to see what all the fuss was about, and report back my take on the evening.

Despite my worries it was a well run and well mannered meeting. This was quite possibly because from what I could tell, I was the only Pro Stadium person in the building. Given the ferocity of some of the ‘open’ speakers at the end of the night, I’m glad I shut up, the evening didn’t need aggravation, not that I would have gone that way.

The only councillor (as far as I could tell) at the meeting from either the ORC or the DCC was Cr Gerry Eckhoff of the ORC, many put in their apologies, and those in favour of the stadium just kept clear.

Those in attendance and spoke were Bev Butler (President), Dr Rob Hamlin (Business School University of Otago), Victor Billot (Vice President and Alliance Candidate), Peter Entwisle (Sts Inc committee member and chair), and Elizabeth Kerr (ex Historic Places Trust), and a full room of what was claimed 200 people (not needing to dispute that).

Peter welcomed everyone for coming, then welcomed Bev Butler as President for an overview of the StS aims and objectives. Excuse the not so succinct summary and paraphrasing here, I hope I have their arguments right, my short hand is non existent, but the pen was going furiously fast.

Sorry long post follows:
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Filed under Architecture, Design, Geography, Inspiration, Media, Site, Stadiums

When is a fact not a fact?

(I am loath to get into this debate, for shouting at each other will never achieve anything, however the posts from the anti-stadium people here has been more than reasonable and I feel that we won’t fall into the trap of being offended and start slinging mud at each other)

Quite simply when it is an opinion. This is the case with the fine folk over at Stop the Stadium with the 10 point ‘facts’ of the stadium, that we supposedly didn’t know about. I wish to look at these ‘facts’ and put my spin on them.

1: {opinion} “We predict the real average cost per household is a minimum of $268 per year for 20 years.” This is your prediction, the other side have their own, these are not irrefutable facts, they are opinions based upon assumptions, which as we know in economics is never without ideological bias.

2: {Fact} The escalating cost of steel. “Do you know that the Stadium design has already been modified because of rising costs?” This is a good thing isn’t it. They have demonstrated an ability to be flexible in the face of rising costs (out of anyone but the Chinese quest for development hands). To be able to meet this challenge is a good thing, not a perceived negative ‘fact’. Yes the cost of steel has risen, quite sharply too, but that hasn’t forced the mass closure of developments globally. Indeed, the history of development will always illustrate the costs in historical context. If this stadium was built 20 years ago it would have been half the cost, or if it is built in 20 years’ time, it would possibly cost twice as much. This is never the reason not to do things.

[Update: It has been suggested by the STS that the CST has in fact pre-purchased the steel for the construction. This would suggest that they have signed a set agreed price, akin to locking stock in at a futures market. If true, again this is a good thing, in that the global price of steel looks forecast to continue to climb. Just today the global economic outlook has been upgraded, with Asia looking at 4.4% + growth. Asia is the world construction hot spot, and thus is pushing the price of steel up.]

3: {opinion} University involvement. Regardless of the perception, the reality is that the University will be economically and institutionally involved in this project. I would argue that only those opposed to this development would see the involvement of the singularly largest economic institution in the southern half of the island as a bad thing. I would rather have them buying land and being involved in this in any way shape or form, than not.

4: {opinion} Students to Dunedin: Quite possibly, do you know for a fact? The university and the government do have funding models and it is well known that the university is looking at the path of an ‘Oxford’ or ‘Harvard’ of the south, with restrictions on courses to get the cream of the crop. The STS (Stop the Stadium) view on this is opinion, not fact. There is nothing in the statutes to stop the role of Otago rising, however, looking to become more elite by having world class facilities at its disposal is never going to be a negative thing. Every major North American university and college have sporting programmes and stadiums (almost better than anything in Australasia), why shouldn’t Otago? The issue isn’t that Otago can’t afford more students. Why is it then that Otago just launched a brand new advertising campaign to attract more students south (good adverts by the way). Whichever way University of Otago goes with its funding model (more students or elitism) is up to Otago and the Government of the day, but does not preclude involvement in this development, opinion does.

5: {opinion} Stadium Functionality: This cannot be known until the stadium is built. Even in the peer review documents, which were cautionary (as they should be) they did not state that the stadium should not go ahead or include multifaceted uses – it signalled caution. As stated throughout the threads in this post, to assume, on the whim of journalists with a paper to push and a couple of promoters from the north, that there won’t be concerts and events at this building is defeatist in the least. This is opinion at best, negative at worst. If we are to assume that the stadium is for a dozen games of rugby a year, this development should stop here and now! I on the other hand assume that the people running the business will look to make money out of this and the way to do that is include as many varied uses as possible. I will always feel that this stadium will only fail if management is remiss in doing the singular role for which it was appointed, make money. But also three years out from completion I think it is unreasonable of the STS to demand to know who will be using the stadium from day one, exceedingly so.

6: {opinion} Budget: Why not, and if they do run over budget, really (it’s actually budgeted for)? The international ability of HOK Sports has been proven globally, if they can’t get a project in on budget, there are very few who can. Indeed, there is evidence of developments (sporting or otherwise) on this scale coming in on budget, within the allowable overflow, or even below budget. “Some experts are saying costs could double” is an expression of opinion not fact. This could simply be taken as other experts suggest that costs could be within budget. Opinion not fact.

7: {opinion} “Membership fee: Experts in the field say that contracts like this are all but impossible to pin down.” Your experts say this. There is plenty of evidence which show civil engineering developments (as this is) have penalties built into them. It’s a standard commercial imperative in most parts of the world. There are penalties if costs over run, if time frames are not met and so on. These are simply commercial realities. This is also a matter for the developers, contractors and lawyers to agree on. If they don’t build in penalties that is their choice, but I would be very doubtful (again opinion) if this isn’t done. We are not talking about cowboy development with crooks, there are some fine international reputations at stake here – and don’t think there aren’t. $188m is not a small amount of money, and no-one is going to be lackadaisical with it. Again this is the opinion of some, not a fact, and there is nothing in physics or economics that means penalties can’t be included in final costs, these haven’t been contractually agreed upon yet.

8: {opinion} The Moana pool comparison is a fair one to make. Because by the opinion of the STS, this will not be a multi-use facility which is open to public use day in day out. Others disagree entirely. This is opinion and not fact by the STS. I say it’s a valid comparison to make, others don’t, this does not mean this is a non-refutable fact. However, to assume that it will be open every day of the year to the public is also being disingenuous. Of course it won’t be. I wasn’t around when Moana was built, but was the Crèche / day care centre part of the original development. I watched last year the development of the new offices and gymnasium in the building, these surely weren’t planned from day one. Buildings, structures and uses evolve (look at the British Museum), why can’t the new stadium.

9: {opinion} Economic prosperity or the death nail in Dunners: Again opinion not fact. Fill a room with 100 economists, 20 will say this, 20 will say that and the other 60 will be somewhere in between. I go with the view that if this development is a success, then the rates relief and economic prosperity of the city can only be a positive thing – but again that is an opinion (possibly supported by some economists somewhere).

10: {opinion} He said – she said, with respect to the numbers. Or I’ll show you my poll and you can show me your poll. Again this is opinion. How is it that after the ORC announced that the people opposed to the stadium at public hearings outnumbered those for the development, that very afternoon the ORC was flooded (literally) with hundreds of emails in support of the stadium. Even if we take up the academics’ offer of a poll of the people, this again is an opinion, of some but not all of the people. And quite frankly I don’t trust the people of Dunedin to put anything other than a tartan tea cosy on a park bench to call it a party (whoops, sorry strong opinion – did I bite?). Council is elected to take the city forward and ensure the economic prosperity of the place, while providing for social and cultural diversity and development. I don’t believe for one minute that this development will preclude the council from undertaking other projects, or for that matter for others to come in and develop in this city. I have no doubt that people are against this project in big numbers, as I have no doubt that there are equally large numbers of supporters, those who shout the loudest are not necessarily in the right. I don’t think (unless in the exceedingly unlikely event that it was +90% against) that council should necessarily take heed of such a poll. Council is elected to take bold and brave decisions and in my opinion this is one they must take.

As stated, I am exceedingly happy that the STS people have come here to debate the issues. I started the blog as a place to discuss design and architecture (and support the stadium). I don’t like the design, but then I support Canterbury and don’t like Red and Black, I can live with it. I have opinions of where this development will take Dunedin, others have their opinions. Of the ten points above, however, only one (the cost of steel) is factual, the rest of the fears and concerns of the STS are opinions (valid or not), not factual redress of the development.

Good luck with the meeting tonight, sorry I can’t make it. I hope that all are civil (IMHO I doubt it very much – there are always idiots on both sides), and that concerns are worked through. Of course I hope that you people fail in your ultimate goal, I pray that this development goes ahead. However, through the scrutiny and concerns of the likes of the STS there is the possibility that a more rigorous development will be undertaken. The STS point to the $11m and time taken already by the DCC and ORC as a bad thing. I tend to think (opinion) that this isn’t a light task and I would rather see them spend $30m and say no with valid reasons than spend no money at all planning and say yes to this project. {As stated I will post about the Vancouver Whitecaps Stadium development, which so far has been many many years in the planning. This is a very good comparison to study and one which we can learn much from.}

As the developers are among some of the finest in the world, responsible for some of the best stadiums (and other civil and commercial developments) anywhere, I just can’t see how this development can be viewed by many as a ‘mickey mouse folly’. HOK sports will not put their name to a development that is doomed to fail (opinion yes, but also commercial imperative).

Posted by Paul Le Comte


Filed under Architecture, Business, Construction, CST, DCC, Democracy, Design, Economics, Events, Geography, Hot air, Innovation, Inspiration, Media, Name, New Zealand, NZRU, ORC, People, Politics, Project management, Property, Site, Sport, Stadiums, STS, Town planning, University of Otago, Urban design

Worth a read

Just a couple of books that provide much in the way I view urban planning. Also having lived in Vancouver, I admire much about that place. There is always going to be negatives, and the Lower East Side is notorious in Canada for all manner of low lifes, the flotsam and jetsam of life, putting that aside, the rest of the world can learn so much from the successes and failures of that town, which went from being a rural outpost, to a vibrant and stunning major urban centre in a very short time scale.

Vancouver Achievement: Urban Planning and Design
John Punter
UBC Press 2004
Amazon Link

This book examines the development of Vancouver’s unique approach to zoning, planning, and urban design from its inception in the early 1970s to its maturity in the management of urban change at the beginning of the twenty-first century. By the late 1990s, Vancouver had established a reputation in North America for its planning achievement, especially for its creation of a participative, responsive, and design-led approach to urban regeneration and redevelopment. This system has other important features: an innovative approach to megaproject planning, a system of cost and amenity levies on major schemes, a participative CityPlan process to underpin active neighbourhood planning, and a sophisticated panoply of design guidelines. These systems, processes, and their achievements place Vancouver at the forefront of international planning practice.

The Vancouver Achievement explains the evolution and evaluates the outcomes of Vancouver’s unique system of discretionary zoning. The introductory chapters set the context for the study: they cover the invention and refinement of this system in the reform movement, its development of policies, guidelines, and control processes, and its translation into official development plans and neighbourhood design in the 1970s. Subsequent chapters focus upon the downtown, waterfront megaprojects, single-family neighbourhoods, the city-wide strategic planning programme (CityPlan), pressures for reform of control processes, and current downtown and inner city developments, especially issues of affordable housing, social exclusion, and multiple deprivation. The concluding chapter summarizes “the Vancouver Achievement,” explains the keys to its success, and evaluates its design success against internationally accepted criteria.

I know these are both featured together on Amazon, but I was actually going to talk about them together anyway.

Dream City: Vancouver and the Global Imagination
Lance Berelowitz
Douglas & McIntyre 2005
Amazon Link

The story behind Vancouver’s emerging urban form: the buildings, public spaces, extraordinary landscapes and cultural values that have turned the city into the poster-child of North American urbanism.
Located at the edge of a continent and at the corresponding edge of national public consciousness, Vancouver has developed in unique and unanticipated ways. It is now emerging as an experiment in contemporary city-making, with international interest in Vancouver as a model of post-industrial urbanism increasing exponentially.

Lance Berelowitz explores the links between the city’s seductive natural setting, its turbulent political history and changing civic values, and its planning and design culture. He also makes the startling case that Vancouver is to Canada’s imagination what Los Angeles is to the American—a mythologized place of endless possibilities, while being grounded in an altogether more limited set of socio-economic and environmental limitations.

I know this is off task a little, but I do keep harping on about a ‘vision’ that could surround this development, and for me two obvious examples stand out like the proverbial, Vancouver and Wellington’s Waterfront. For instance the two cities are unique in that they have a special connection to their waterfront and harbour. Both have similar histories and time scales, and both don’t have major motorways running through them or cutting off their waterfront (ah hem Wgtn’s later day sins forgiven). Vancouver is particularly unique in North America, in that waterfronts were often seen (in the context of when motorways were built late 1950s-1960s) as industrial wastelands and easy land to provide 4 or 6 lane motorways. Seattle is a horrendous example of the city cut off from the water, you can glimpse it from the back of Pike St Market at Victor Steinbrueck park, over the 6 lane highway. The Seattle Seahawks (American Football) team has a relatively new Qwest Stadium, built in 2002 for $360m USD. It’s near the water, but cut off from the water by the lovely same 6 lane Alaska Way highway (and an almighty container terminal). It’s built by the none other than Paul Allen of Microsoft on the site of the former Kingdome (classic late 60s early 70s architecture covered baseball stadium).

Argh – generic US styled stadia! Qwest Field, Seattle.

and the classic but now demolished Kingdome.

But I digress.

However these two cities share more than this fleeting similarity, in waterfront stadiums. Wellington’s Westpac Stadium (affectionately known as the Cake Tin) was built in 2000, designed by Warren & Mahoney whom we don’t need to remind have a stunning architectural heritage in New Zealand, for a cost of $130m (about $180m in today’s money very roughly). Interestingly enough among it’s tenants are the Hurricanes Super 14 rugby franchise and the University of Otago (Marketing and Communications and the School of Physiotherapy).

(nb all aerial pics from 200m elevation for comparison). Westpac Stadium (cake tin) note the motorway to the north and the railway to the south.

Westpac stadium was an interesting exercise in archietcture, in that the land wasn’t ideal, cut off from it’s surrounds by sea (a good thing), motorway and railway. The entrance and how the stadium delt with it’s fans access was an interesting exercise, resulting in a very long covered concourse that extends out from the stadium like the tail of an apostrophe, towards the city and the railway station (interestingly shielding people from the waterfront). I love this stadium, it’s a funny place though. It has imposing massive austere walls, it’s completely insular looking, and the way it’s cut off from the waterfront and shields it’s patrons from the water is a shame. I would have loved to have seen this right on the waterfront, but then Wellington Port is a huge commercial institution, and land for them is a valued commodity. I would have rather seen a Stadium New Zealand concept like the defunct proposal fro Auckland on the waterfront that what they have presently, but that’s personal preference.

Westpac Stadium

Detail from the defunct Stadium New Zealand concept for the waterfront in downtown Auckland. Note the transparency of the stadium, and the proposed area for cafes etc connecting the people with the stadium and the waterfront (ah the dream).

Wellington’s stadium is built and now part of the sporting and events consciousness of New Zealand. It’s loved by some and loathed by others, and some like myself love it, but bemoan it’s location and isolation from the waterfront, although it’s less than a couple of hundred meters away.

The Vancouver Whitecaps football team (soccer – the beautiful game) currently play their football in the adjacent city of Burnaby in Greater Vancouver (think Manukau City, separate from Auckland but consumed by the big smoke) at Swangard Stadium. This ageing stadium holds a capacity of nearly 7000. I can speak from personal experience, watching football from Swangard on a late summer’s evening with the sun going down more or less to the north west in a balmy 20°C is a treat (the beer is average and there are more Brits and other foreign football fans than there are Canucks). It’s located on the edge of the beautifully wooded Central Park in Vancouver, it’s a nice walk along the edge of the park from the Skytrain.

However the team has indicated that they wish to relocate to a modern facility, and the proposed waterfront stadium in Downtown Vancouver is unique in many ways, most of which I will write about in full very soon, but the main high lights are;

  • Downtown Location
  • 150 Car parks only – Public transport is huge in Vancouver
  • Location, on Waterfront and modest design
  • The planning process
  • There is so much to learn from this project that it deserves a post of it’s own, so over the next couple of days I’ll be collating all of the material I have collected on this topic and putting together as close to the true picture as possible, it’s a cautionary tale of what if’s and maybe’s with potential yippie.

    The pic below is a rendering of the view from the south looking north out of the stadium across the water to the mountains on the north shore of Vancouver.

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    Filed under Architecture, Design, Geography, Inspiration, Site, Stadiums

    Some thoughts

    These are random, but as the site is again gaining momentum (strange watching visitor numbers fluctuate), I’ll add some other food for thought. I’m not saying they are relevant here, but to my mind all design is about the synthesis of ideas, from whatever source. So why not look at what else is being done and are these relevant to us or not.

    The first I will just briefly talk about is old Carisbrook.

    To my thinking modern stadiums have no place in a suburban setting. There are of course exceptions to this, where redevelopment has been restricted etc. I will never be convinced that Eden Park should have been redeveloped where it is, and in that form. Highbury, the home of Arsenal football stadium, has recently been redeveloped in a two-stage process. Arsenal and its financial backers were looking to house a champion side (ow that hurts to say that) in a modern new facility, with all of the bells and whistles which go with it, not to mention larger capacity. Arsenal (like most clubs in the UK) is located in a suburban location in North London, this is its major restriction, but was turned into its advantage.

    The club built a new stadium at Ashburton Grove is an industrial plot of land just 500 metres from the old stadium. The new stadium is big, it’s brash and it’s also by HOK (Dunedin Stadium architects). Putting its architectural integrity aside, it’s regarded as a wonderful place to watch sport.

    What did Arsenal do with the old stadium?

    Simple, they are turning the old Art Deco structure into an apartment complex, with the insular looking nature of the complex to its advantage and redeveloped, the pitch into an Eden, an apartment common. All of the complex’s apartments have sold out, and this development is actually making the club money.

    I’m not saying that Carisbrook is good for anything in its current form. It doesn’t have the stunning Art Deco architecture of the old Highbury, which is an advantage as Art Deco is among other things a very strong dwelling architectural language; it lent itself to this redevelopment almost immediately, and some bright spark saw that.

    Now of course, Carisbrook will never be turned into luxury apartments, so what can we do with the land? A favourite saying of mine is the old, “we are limited only by our imagination”, and I believe that we are very much in that situation. This is a pretty prime piece of land (not in absolute value), but in size and location. It’s suburban, it’s in a lower socio-economic area, and there are shortages of accommodation in South Dunedin. Granny flats would be a disaster, but why not adventure into the social engineering and look at stunningly designed and landscaped low cost housing? There is a history in New Zealand of pioneering in this area, with the likes of Athfield’s work in and around Wellington providing immediate reference. Also the council flats in Upper Riccarton in Christchurch are another fine example.

    This part of town will always be home to a mix of young and old people. Play on that, include in the redevelopment amenities that will foster the youth of the area to be active citizens of the area, skate park etc.

    I’m not saying it’s what should be there, but there is no reason that social housing shouldn’t be considered worthy of architectural integrity; in fact, they are the very reason why architectural rigour shouldn’t be applied to this. And I am talking about the total built environment, landscape and surrounds included. The apartment developments within the lands of the University of British Columbia are a stunning example of the integration of housing and social space through landscape architecture, there are references points over the entire world.

    This is just one suggestion for this area, I hope many people have more ideas. I mean the actual geography of the area is also fascinating, this could be an inspiration for something too. Or failing that, what’s wrong with a modern technology/industry park. The back of the site is already that, the front is suburban.

    I’d love to hear people’s opinions for what we can do there. Don’t bother posting if your suggestion is to slap lipstick on the old dear and call it a stadium. I’m working from the assumption that it’s gone, and what can we do with it now.

    Some links:

    Posted by Paul Le Comte


    Filed under Architecture, Business, Carisbrook, Construction, Design, Economics, Geography, Heritage, Innovation, Inspiration, Name, New Zealand, People, Project management, Property, Site, Stadiums, Town planning, Urban design