Tauranga City Council commissioners have expressed support in principle for the concept proposed by the business case for a proposed Community Stadium, but have asked for more information before deciding whether to undertake public consultation through the Council’s 2024-34 draft Long-term Plan.
The Commission has also asked the Western Bay Economic Development Agency, Priority One, which presented the business case at today’s (1 May) Council meeting, to pursue the formation of a Trust to undertake fundraising for the stadium project, the outcomes of which would help determine any future decision on the proposal.
Commissioner Bill Wasley said the business case indicated that a community stadium at Tauranga Domain in the city centre could have considerable regional benefits, but noted that much needed to be done to confirm community support for the proposal and how it would be funded, together with the associated need to work with community organisations which could be impacted if construction did go ahead.
“This is really the start of the process,” Bill said. “We now need to know what the wider community thinks about the proposal and continue engaging with our partner organisations on contributions which would reflect the regional benefits a stadium could provide. We also need to continue working with organisations currently located at the Domain whose activities may be impacted if the proposal did proceed, to ensure that solutions would be available to meet their needs.
He said the commission needs to be assured that the funding for what could be a $220 million project will be available, including an assessment of the affordability of any ratepayer-funded contributions towards construction and operating costs.
“We are aware that some current Tauranga Domain users do have concerns about the proposal, but this is an opportunity to think about what’s best for the city, in the context of the revitalisation of the city centre which is now underway, as well as the potential benefits to the western Bay of Plenty and the wider region. It’s also a chance to think about city green spaces and amenities which would be fit-for-purpose for decades to come, including access to the proposed facility in a low-carbon emission future.”
The proposal outlined in the business case features a ‘non-traditional’ stadium design providing around 7,000 permanent seats and up to 8,000 temporary seats, when needed. Other potential uses, such as festivals, could cater for up to 40,000 participants. The intent is that the proposed stadium would operate as a community facility which encouraged community use throughout the year. This could include provision of a circa-2,000m2 light exhibition centre; a 1,300m2 function centre; a 400m2 community multi-sport facility; and a University of Waikato sports science/physiotherapy space.
The current estimated cost of $220.2 million includes contingency and cost escalation provisions totalling $59.2 million. The proposed concept would be expected to generate positive earnings, but would be unlikely to fully-cover debt, interest and depreciation costs, which is typical of similar facilities around the world. Should the Council decide to support the proposal in future, it would be expected that an operational grant would be required to offset those costs.
Commissioner Stephen Selwood highlighted the business case prediction of potential social and economic contributions totalling $778 million being generated over the project lifetime, including construction and visitor spending benefits. “That does indicate that a community stadium could offer significant benefits for the city and the wider region, which is something that will need to be taken into account by Council and our regional stakeholders,” he said.
Commissioner Shad Rolleston queried the potential for innovative funding mechanisms to contribute to the stadium cost, if it was to proceed. “We will need to assess whether an approach such as Infrastructure Funding and Financing Act funding could cover part of the cost, with repayments levied across the wider sub-region, in-line with the benefits a stadium would provide.”
Commissioner Wasley noted that the Council is currently constrained by high debt levels, which means that its focus is on maintaining levels of service, meeting the city’s growth demands and improving environmental, community and cultural wellbeing. “Our investment agenda already includes ambitious projects such as Te Manawataki o Te Papa, which will help drive a significant revitalisation of the city centre. The proposed stadium definitely supports our city centre aspirations, but it will have to be considered within the wider context of its benefits and costs, both for Tauranga City and the sub-region.”
The Commission has asked for additional detail to be provided on the wider regional social and economic benefits and that reports be provided on potential ownership and delivery models.