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:

Bev Butler:
She described the $188million (development budget) as “an illusion”. The StS is not convinced that costs will be kept within that amount. Guarantees set for budget were of “no comfort” for the StS, and that council “Exit Points” were exceeded all the way through the process. She claimed the council will be “struggling” to pay for this for the next 20 years.

She claimed that the stadium will “not be multi-functional”, as claimed by the CST (Carisbrook Stadium Trust).

She then told of secret peer reviews of the stadium which had deletions due to commercial sensitivity. [I have no problem with censored material if it is commercially sensitive, without which competition in the commercial world would be a mess].

She then picked up on a point that was repeated throughout the evening, and one that I just don’t buy, that the world is in an economic downturn and that it’s not the right environment for such a development. I would also suggest that even in boom times the StS would argue against such a stadium. Bev Butler claimed that in Dunedin we are are possibly “more vulnerable” to economic downturn. [I would strongly disagree with that view. Dunedin is the largest service city to one of the economic rural heartland’s in New Zealand. This protects us from many other vulnerabilities of commerce and economics].

She also claimed that the business would run at a loss of $15m per annum, but for how long and what were the projected incomes and losses were not mentioned. This of course was greeted with oohs and aahs and the concerned startled gasp from the crowd. [I would find this figure hard to fathom considering that no business is even launched with that sort of projected losses and no potential profit.]

She claimed that these were “facts that can not be disputed”. Sorry love, just have and a strong opinion is not a fact. Nor is a half fact a fact. You failed to mention the long term projected income of the stadium. Will it operate at a loss of 15m every year, I don’t think so? The perceived economic downturn has been interpreted by many economics commentators and suggest that it’s actually a slowing of the economy not a downturn. It’s suggested that the current economic conditions will mirror the last slowing of the economy and within 6-9 months economic indicators will be again in the positive, as opposed to the last true recession in NZ in the early 1990s.

Rob Hamlin of the University of Otago Business School:

Theme “Investor Entrapment” with underlying themes of “our money” and talked at lengths about lack of multi-functionality of the design.

He claims (as they all did) that the cost could be substantially more than the roughly $188m official figure proposed. However where these came from, we aren’t sure, he doesn’t state. He also claims that since WW2 there hasn’t been a publicly funded ‘vanity’ project that has been left un-completed due to lack of money in the world, it will be built at any cost.

Using his hat as a feasibility lecturer, he claims that the $11-15m already spent on studies wouldn’t even pass his courses, and that he has students doing better work in 4 months for about $500, which he described as far superior. This of course drew much laughter from the crowd.

He then described what he claims is the greatest flaw of the proposal in that it will be a single use facility, namely rugby, and that in order to make something multi functional would require too greater compromise in design and over all functionality. He correctly (for a change) claims that different uses require different facilities and expertise, something he doesn’t see possible here.

For example it is often suggested that University Graduations be held in the stadium. But rather facetiously suggested that to Cap all 4000 students would take upwards of 30hrs and that’s just silly. This of course drew great laughter.

He then claimed that for it to be multi functional, it’s design needed to be either too expensive or too specialised. He then went off about the nature of the CST organisation and didn’t like the nature of it (whatever that means?).

He then drew comparisons with AMI Stadium (previously Lancaster Park and Jade Stadium) in ChCh for relative costs, in which the roofed option was deemed “totally uneconomic proposition for our city and stadium partners“. Not sure where the comparisons are here. The AMI stadium roofed option was for $500m dollars (ours is $180), while CHCH has a population of 414,000 people, Dunedin has a population of 118,000 people. Further AMI stadium is looking at a total capacity of 41,000 as opposed to our 35,000. However the greatest difference in the costs associated with the design of the stadium is the design. The AMI stadium designed by Athfield Architects Ltd. Ian Athfield is a CHCH son who’s body of work in and around Wellington is synonomous with innovation and inspiration. However the design as it stands, there is one completed stand, would involve substantial costs. The design of the Dunedin Stadium has the roof drawn into it from day one, and as such is designed with costs associated. Although I haven’t spoken to HOK Sports (Consulting Architects), I would assume that the traditional oval shaped stadium with a roof would have been prohibitively large, hence the current design?

He then reiterated his thoughts that the sensitivity analysis by the Carisbrook Stadium Trust was “not here” and based on assumptions, also described as “not adequate” and “not of standard”. However this is of course a subjective view of the work of the CST and it’s planning procedures.

But then silliness proceeded over his presentation. He presented some images for comparison as multi-functional or single use objects.

He presented two modern passenger jet airliners. The ultra modern and luxurious and “virtual” (in that like the stadium it isn’t built yet commercially) Boeing 787 Dreamliner (on the top left), which he described as a possible chicken coup if one so desired, that is multi-functional (to much laughter), with what I assume was the Airbus A330 (top right) (I don’t think he mentioned the model, I’m assuming this is the comparable jet liner) which he described as a single use machine.

These are my images, but I have included them for comparison and to illustrate his arguement.

While below that he compares Carisbrook (the multi-functional chicken coop/ boeing 787) with that of Twickenham (a single use rugby only stadium).

Again my images (but I think these are very close to the ones used). He uses these images to illustrate what he claims are the striking similarities between the two “single use” aeroplanes and the two “single use” stadiums. By showing us pictures of two rugby matches in progress we are to assume that they are the same single function type buildings.

However his claims as to the lack of multi-functionality of Twickenham are somewhat disingenuous in that it has hosted a number of evens outside of rugby. Concerts by Genesis, Iron Maiden, U2, The Rolling Stones, The Police and Eagles have all been held here, while it has also been the host of Rugby League’s Challenge Cup final.

This is from the U2 concert at Twickenham in 2005(?)

Which would instantly make his claims of Twickenham as a singular use facility false. But then there’s the small thing of the Museum of Rugby, which is also within the building. However a short visit to the Twickenham web site and under the menu item “Hospitality & Conferences” we are redirected to the Twickenham Experience which describes the use of the Twickenham Stadium as thus:

“Twickenham Experience provides official conference, banqueting and exhibition facilities within Twickenham Stadium. The Stadium is a versatile conference venue that currently has 10 main functions rooms and over 150 boxes. Twickenham also benefits from free car parking for over 2000 vehicles and will benefit further from the opening of the new South Stand facilities adding over 5000m2 of function space.”

You can even throw Christmas party packages – taking note Carisbrook Stadium Trust. Then there’s the 3000m of exhibition space actively promoted within the “single” use facility. By my count that’s seven (7) single uses for this “single” use facility.

So why are you being so disingenuous with the truth here? This comparison is just a little puzzling. Although you did get a laugh with the chicken coup – carisbrook “you can use it for anything you put your mind too” remark.

Further, despite the work being done thus far on the suitability of the Texlon ETFE roofing system, you claim that there’s no proof that Carisbrook will have a “playable surface under roof”. This despite all of the studies to date suggesting otherwise. Still you are the expert on Marketing.

The bizarre claims continued in his presentation though (all of which drew ooh’s and aah’s with the occasional gasp of disbelief and disapproving chortle). The capacity of the stadium came under question as he suggests that the stadium was indeed disappearing. Using a graph of the capacity decrease over time, he suggested that the anti-stadium people have no worries because at the rate the capacity is decreasing, there will be indeed no stadium to oppose – much laughter and joy at this suggestion. Hamlin claims that despite the capacity being 30,000+ in the proposal, it is in fact down to 20,000, comprising of 16,500 seated and 3,500 standing capacity. This drew a shocked gasp from the audience, what weren’t they being told. I guess he thinks he has a king hit conspiracy on his hands here.

I have yet to determine if the capacity of the stadium is indeed shrinking and if we are now facing funding a stadium with a 20,000 capacity? I have sought answers from the CST and the Council over this. But until I find factual evidence to the contrary I will have to go with the official 30,000 capacity.

He then makes more startling accusations. Namely that he estimates $50m + has already been spent without a single sod of soil being turned. This includes the realignment of the road network around the area to accommodate the stadium, and the land purchases thus far. Labelling this money as ‘trapped’ in that it will never be seen again. Again with the theme of Investor Entrapment he illustrated his point with a Las Vegas gambling weekend comparison. He described how people go to Las Vegas for gambling weekends, and will if necessary defecate where there are (if possible), so that they won’t give up the pookie machine they have been feeding money to over the last couple of days, because it should pay out for them and no one else. Yeah nice inappropriate analogy to use for comparison, but it got a laugh.

He described this stadium as “Big Government Vanity Project” Claiming that Big Govt + Vanity Projects + Investment Entrapment = Trouble. This is of course an opinion. But to illustrate this he draws an actual stadium comparison, with that of the Rogers Centre in Toronto Canada (they called it the SkyDome as it was formerly known). This development ballooned from $158m Canadian Dollars to over $400 and after bankruptcy was bought for $25million or 4% of the cost of construction (again this drew concerned gasps from the people gathered). This is of course a bad thing to have happened. However rather fortuitously Hamlin forgot to mention the rest of the story, in that the true “multi use” facility is now operating successfully and in 2005 underwent further development and how housing the following;

Baseball (home of the Blue Jays) NFL American Football (co-home ground of the Buffalo Bills), on-site fitness club, and Hard Rock Café. The Renaissance Toronto Hotel (348 room) and the following from Wiki;

also hosted exhibition soccer, cricket, Gaelic football, Australian Rules Football and two NCAA International Bowl games. The 1992 World Series and 1993 World Series were played at Rogers Centre. The World Wrestling Federation hosted WrestleMania VI and WrestleMania X8 at Rogers Centre. [12]
In June 1997, it featured a well-publicized 150 metre race between sprinters Donovan Bailey and Michael Johnson. Soccer matches have been regularly held in recent years; they had been rarely played at the venue when its Astroturf surface had been in place.[citation needed]
Rogers Centre is the site of several major high school and collegiate sporting competitions

Check out the Wiki entry on this stadium, it has an excellent summary of the failures and how subsequent success of the development, not just the edited failures as pointed to by Dr Hamlin.

Ah don’t you like a happy ending, not Dr Hamlin, it was good enough to stop at the initial failures of the stadium construction costs.

Finally he put up a pic of the Dunedin City Council and circled those for and against the stadium and high lighted the fragility of the decision if only 3 councillors changed their mind. Then off on his political agenda, he bemoaned the lack of national political party participation within local government (at least that’s what I think he was doing), stating that these councillors voting for the stadium will be held accountable by the electorate next time. Not sure what the lack of national political party structure/grip at local body level had to do with it all, calling it the “shorthand” of political parties. I she suggesting that if we did have a labour/national split in the local councils then there would be more pressure to bear on those councillors to play the party line? Actually we have in the past had this sort of vertical structure, but that has long gone, and last seen with any real strength in the leftist councils of CHCH in the 1970s. Perhaps the next speaker (Victor Billot of the Alliance) wants in council?

Overall I was expecting so much more from Dr Hamlin of the University of Otago Business School. You so disparagingly gave the CST a poor report on their planning and development, I would go so far as to fail that presentation, due to the half truths and weak comparative analysis. I was genuinely looking forward to possibly being shaken about my views of the stadium. I was left thinking, was that it? Is that the sum total of the academic objection to the stadium.

Next speaker Victor Billot

Drawing on sources (unknown) that the council should sell assets to fund the project in these times of economic uncertainty are fiscally “dubious”. He suggested that council services could be run down, although he didn’t offer which, and even suggested that a newspaper suggestion of Port of Lyttleton share sale would be a bad thing for Dunedin. So it’s OK for the city of Dunedin to have shares in the Port of Lyttleton (competitor to port Otago), yet it’s not OK to build stadiums for the people here?

Again with the disingenuous facts and figures, claiming that 50% of the population of Dunedin has income less than $20,000. This is dead right (I think), but then of a population of about 118,000 nearly 20,000 of these are university and polytech students. Sure costs will be passed onto ratepayers and renters alike, but any development costs with rate implications will also be passed onto the citizens of Dunedin.

Someone had to play the “no concerts” line which the start-up newspaper D-Scene had been pushing. They claimed that no one from the CST had contacted the two major concert promoters in Wellington and Christchurch to see if they would bring acts to Dunedin, with a big NO as an answer. We all know my position on this. Of course a promoter with commercial interests in and around his/her city will not bring an act to a ‘foreign’ city. It’s like asking the Canterbury Crusaders to play home games at the brook – it wont happen, as it will hurt their bottom dollar. There are already suggestions that a mini Big Day Out be staged here, and literally 3 years out from completion, I don’t think we need to know if Kylie will be opening the stadium and who will follow her in the coming months in 2011. the D-Scene article was championed as fact, where it was in fact a barrell being pushed only half way to the truth.

Billot also claims that all resources will be sunk into this development. This may be true, but one can not talk of absolutes with respect to the 20 year time period of the rates pressure, even more so in isolation of economic growth (true growth is still predicted over the next 9 immediate years) and even the impact of a successfully run venture (all assumptions are based on a failing stadium).

Gerry Eckhoff (ex Act MP and ORC Councillor)

Would have preferred to speak at a pro stadium meeting, to see people explain themselves. Playing the good cop role (to the converted bar one) it didn’t take long for the ex ACT MP to play the “I’m possibly Politically Incorrect” (the masses love poking their nose at PC, although what he meant here I’m not sure, his political correctness wasn’t in context). He was told at a meeting by ‘unnamed’ individual (which we’re not mean to know about), that if a vote was to be taken on “the strength of argument alone”, the anti-stadium people would have won. Thank god the vote wasn’t taken on the strength of argument, I would rather prefer argument and sound reasoning to be part of the package which included economic reports and impact studies.

he argued that “full options” paper should have been put to the council and the people, not just the roof/no roof Awatea St development. Well correct me if I’m wrong (and I’m not), there were in fact 6 proposals, 4 of which were to do with Carisbrook in it’s current location. So once again with the half truths (although speaker after speaker talked of facts???). Again playing the populists, he wanted Otago power generation to stay in Otago (big cheer) and improved water quality. I prefer world peace and child protection myself, but the debate is about a stadium development. I guess I’ll just have to get the world peace agenda on the next council meeting (or football club committee meeting?).

Again not removing his ACT hat, he played the “over riding all powerful local govt” and the changes to the Local Govt Act of 2002 as giving councils too much power. Funny that coming from a right wing libertarian “less government” ideology. Still it was funny to see ACT and Alliance on the same side, all that was missing were the Greens. His view is that under the present act, Councils can be ‘captured’ buy powerful (x-files?) pressure groups, thus hijacking council money for narrow groups. He pointed to how this is a good thing with the “Hands off Harrop” group, but I think it was a bad thing when the council spent “your money” on buying Harbour Cone for the people.

Notice the theme, big council bad, your money and Political Incorrectness, all popular vote winners with no substance to them, lest add anything to the debate about the merits of a stadium. He likes visionary people, he likes strong opinions (as long as they are anti stadium). He claims the developers only use positive words to describe the development and negative words to marginalise the opponents. Now funny that a developer using positive words. I’d be bloody pissed off if the CST were using words like, expensive and cost over runs. That would tell me they are setting it up for failure.

He thought there was a PhD in there somewhere for a Pols student over council decision making with respect to this issue and the changes to local body governance in the 2002 act. Again using the old anti-PC rally cry of the ACT party he claimed that Wisdom is an oxymoronic term when used to describe Councils. He has little faith in the process the councils are going through. Of the 320 submissions he read on the stadium, he claims not one show him a good reason for the development to go ahead.

Again with the ACT rally cry, “Democracy needed more people like you” (pointing to the concerned masses). Say HALT! Say Enough!! Translated, I’m an ex ACT member with certain political ideological baggage and any expenditure by council outside of their core mandate is bad. Indeed he even mentioned that council was treading on private enterprise here.

Emotive but lacking in substance and certainly any facts. But of course we are entitled to our opinion, just nothing here to suggest this isn’t worth going ahead with.

Peter Entwisle

last Election didn’t provide a mandate for the development. As Peter would know, I strongly disagree with this, as the media coverage of the stadium and the election was thick and fast and you certainly knew the views of the councillors opposed and in favour of the “only issue in town”.

I will give it to Peter though. I fully support the Hands off Harrop group in their bid to stop hideous clip on development of the Council building in the centre of the city.

Elizabeth Kerr

Presented on the planning process, of which I don’t dispute at all, and thanks for the informative explanation of the process this will go through. I now know I need to get my A into G and make a submission by this Friday from the city council. Submissions on Plan Change 8 are due this friday. All details of this plan change with relation to the Stadium are available from the DCC web site.

She described that this could end up in the environment court under appeal if the STS Inc don’t succeed in halting this development.

She talked about a Sustainable Community and of Community Well Being, and more so when times are hard. She claimed it was hard to see when times are going to get better, and this is enough reason to halt the project. I disagree, companies trade their way out of difficulty, and good business
seek to expand more so when times are hard, new markets and better products.

Finally back to Bev Butler to summarise the evening.

Get out and spread the word. Membership of the STS is rising. Get the foot soldiers mobilised. She then told of the touching email she got from Linda Burnett (?) in Sydney, whom left Dunedin in 1972 and told of how her late father loved Carisbrook. You can take the girl out of Dunedin, and seemingly that girl 36 years on can tell us in Dunedin what we can do, yeah cheers Linda. I loved Carisbrook too, as I did Lancaster Park and Athletic Park.

Then it was over to the public with a couple of quick comments and questions. This is where the ‘fun’ started. The gathered masses were told the StS were the ‘watchdogs’ of Dunedin over a council that was running roughshot over it’s citizens.

We were told that if Auckland can’t afford a new stadium, then we can’t either, and that the speaker moved to Dunedin for other reasons (of tranquility and lack of progress?) than a new stadium.

We were also told that the councillors who voted yes to this development should be held as financial guarantors of the development. Yeah like that’s how council spending decisions are made. Joke. there needed to be a binding referendum on the issue (are you that confident that the people of Dunedin and Otago don’t want it – bold move, but silly). Do we then go down the path of Binding Referendum for all council decisions, or do we trust them to do what we elected them for from time to time?

We were told that people were moving away already because of the stadium proposal. I find that bloody hard to believe. But good on them, last one out turn off the light eh!

There was even a gentleman who knew someone at JP Morgan in the US and they said the financial crisis was going to get worse before it got better. Yes in America things are going to get worse before they get better. Canada however is a booming economy having a laugh (with pity) at the state of Bush’s economy. And yes his contacts in London are right the economic conditions there are similar to that of the US. Shame that our economic determinates are dominated by Asian forces, and as suggested already, we aren’t in fact in for hard times, even Westpac predicts an improvement in the economy by October at the earliest – hardly food stamp times folks.

We were told throughout the evening that Rugby test matches were few and far between (45 games in 125 years). But we were told for a fact that he knows Dunedin won’t be getting any more test matches. Yeah right. My granddad always knew a man who knew a man who knew the facts. But if you people are going to look at test match rugby only, and not the couple of dozen other matches a year hosted, not to mention Super 14 final when Otago get to host it (it will happen).

We were also told on good authority that we were in for not a recession but depression. Yeah right.

We were told that climate change would turn it into the biggest salt water pool in the world, when in fact the studies show that MSL change in and around NZ and Dunedin were negligible. But we’d hate facts to get in the way of a good rant.

Dr Hamilin in response to a question from the floor tried to say the Rugby Union professionalised but didn’t commercialise the game. I would have to disagree, but then this is all opinion. He also tried to draw similarities with the NFL and team franchise ownership, where commercialisation made huge economic progress. He failed to mention the franchieses that were uprooted by team owners when they didn’t get their way with councils funding private company infrastructure, as is the case with stadiums in the US.

Dr Hamlin, also stated, i response to a question, that the oil and gas reserves off the South Eastern coast of the South Island were greater than that of the North Sea, and made some flippant remark that we want to build stadiums, latte bars and parks around out ‘deep sea’ port. And that if we continued to close off the Port Dunedin part of the port complex, we’ll loose the base of this potentially massive industry to Invercargill. FYI, the inner harbour is not deep sea and constantly needs dredging to make it navigable. Historically the port has played a role, but any service we could play for such a massive industry in the future could only be based out of Port Chalmers, with smaller servicing in the inner harbour as is the present case. There are very few if any inner city harbours such as ours where development of heavy industry is preferred over more residential and recreational uses as proposed by the DCC in the Harbour Basin planned developments. Again a little disingenuous with the truth.

All in all an interesting if not disappointing meeting. I learnt nothing apart from the planning process, and certainly didn’t discover any new ‘facts’ that would shake my world. I have no doubt that the StS would consider it a success, they seemed pretty worked up at the end.

Thanks Peter for the invite, I look forward to the discussions on this issue and will happily correct any blaring mistakes, as I said my short hand is non existent.

Sorry folks if this is long, but I doubt if any such account of the evening will appear anywhere else (you wouldn’t want to read a transcript, believe me).

Links (forgot to mention this ‘single use park’)


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

2 responses to “Stop the Stadium meeting

  1. Tony

    Great summary, & glad I stumbled into (onto?) your blog. Nice to see someone who appears to be trying to sort the wheat from the chaff. Personally, I’ve had enough of the hand-wringing about the decision to proceed with the Stadium … those who were elected to decide between options have done so, and, for better or worse, it’s time to let those who can, perform.

    Talking’s all well & good when it’s time for a chat, but, as a close mate of mine used to say: “the time for talk is over”. I’ll drop into the blog site from time-to-time, to see how things are shaping up.



  2. Cheers for dropping by Tony. Spread the word

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