Wellington Scoop

It’s logical: the Basin should be the new 10,000-seat venue

Robbie Williams at the Basin Reserve in 2015

by Glen Smith
The logic, cost and viability of a new indoor arena versus using our existing facilities needs to be seriously questioned. There may be a niche for a 10,000+ venue. But it doesn’t need to be indoor.

Up in Auckland, Ed Sheeran is playing at Mt Smart (outdoor) and I saw Adele there on the wet concert day (well wrapped up) when a good time was had by all.

Wellington has more rain free days than Auckland.

The best 10,000+ outdoor venue would, in my view, be a revitalized Basin Reserve. It’s close to the main entertainment district, and there could be direct passenger transport from the whole region (if the LGWM process comes up with a sensible plan).

A strengthened Museum Stand and refurbished R A Vance stand and a new stand on the north (housing a formal entrance as part of an Option X transport solution) would provide good covered seating protected from the norwester, with a stage in the south east.

With this configuration and modern directional sound technology, noise issues for surrounding residential areas could likely be overcome.

The Basin would still house cricket and other sports, along with a range of other events that would attract revenue and corporate sponsorship. Let’s hope this option will be seriously considered.


  1. luke, 9. September 2017, 12:04

    If it’s accompanied by light rail access, then ok. But the last thing i want is a large car-dependent venue.

  2. Troy H, 9. September 2017, 13:09

    We don’t need another indoor venue.(Sounds like part of the WCC “debt blow-out” or ” long-term plan” agenda.)

  3. KB, 10. September 2017, 10:10

    Acts can already play outdoors at Westpac or the Basin if they choose (Robbie Williams played at the Basin 2 years ago, and Westpac usually has one a year). Wellington’s problem is not a lack of outdoor venues, it’s a lack of an adequately sized indoor venue, with all the benefits an indoor arena offers, for major acts. [But as Kerry Prendergast has pointed out, there’s not likely to be enough ‘major acts’ to justify the huge cost.]

  4. Brent Efford, 12. September 2017, 22:15

    Yes, Luke. Glen Smith’s plan makes perfect sense, but only if light rail down the Kent/Cambridge median is developed as an extension of the regional rail system. Which is what the regional council intended in the 1990s – but abandoned in favour of the Transmission Gully Motorway when Fran Wilde and the current National Govt took over.

  5. Richard Keller, 13. September 2017, 10:34

    On a related topic, a small-ish indoor concert venue, primarily used by local arts groups (music, etc.), is missing from the current scene. There are popular spots, such as St Andrews on the Terrace, known for its accoustic, which are too small for this niche. We could use a public (council supported) ‘medium-sized’ (300-500?) venue designed accoustically for music events.

    Why do we think so much of large venues? Sell more tickets?

  6. Lindsay, 13. September 2017, 12:32

    Richard: The Paramount, with 430 seats, is exactly the indoor concert venue which you are describing. Over the years it’s been used for many music performances. With good acoustics and good sightlines. But the city council has shown zero interest in trying to keep it open. So it’ll be closed and empty by the end of the month. A great loss for Wellington.

  7. Glen Smith, 13. September 2017, 21:47

    KB. When focussing on the 10,000+ niche (rather than the smaller venues mentioned above) the goal surely is to look objectively at what is required to attract larger concerts, rather than automatically assuming that an indoor venue is essential (organisers commonly use Mt Smart in Auckland and it doesn’t seem to put anyone off). In a country the size of New Zealand, where people are prepared to travel, the total ‘market’ for many of these acts can often be serviced by one venue (Auckland the obvious) or two venues (Auckland and a South Island venue). To encourage organisers to do a third venue, it has to be attractive.
    Neither of the two outdoor venues you mention fulfil this but the fact of them being outdoor is likely the least significant of their drawbacks. Westpac Stadium is a fairly stark/ utiliarian space, requires complete stage/ equipment setup, is a long way from the main entertainment district and quite a way from the Station (around 3/4 km).
    The Basin has great atmosphere but currently has many drawbacks including requirement for full stage setup, poor PT for those north of the city, lack of covered seating, poor ingress / egress with conflict with major transport flows on all sides, and poor parking for support services. However all of these deficiencies can be overcome with the right design (and this should be undertaken anyway given the Basin’s heritage as a world class cricket venue). The best option, in my view, is a Modified Option X with transport flow concentrated on the north and west sides, full grade separation in the north west corner, bidirectional flow through Arras Tunnel (at 13m wide it was clearly designed for 4 lanes at around 3.25m wide each) and a pedestrian overbridge at Buckle St height into a new spectator stand on the north connecting the Basin directly with Memorial park.
    This design, with a strengthened Museum Stand, would see 3-4,000 covered seats in the north-west and an overall capacity of likely 10-15,000 with complete segregation of spectators’ ingress/ egress from major traffic flows on the North, East and West sides. A Basin Rail Station (as part of an essential across town extension of our rail network) plus existing bus services would provide capacity for 10,000+ passengers/ hour directly to all regions of greater Wellington. Parking could utilise Hataitai Park and the Showgrounds via shuttles. Open space to the south east would supply space for support services. And a permanent stage in the southeast (at the expense of some embankment but with new compensatory embankment to the south) would remove the need for a stage setup while providing additional covered seating (in line with the wicket) during cricket matches.
    The result would be a highly functional and attractive venue at a marginal cost (ie cost above the improvements that should be undertaken anyway) that would be the fraction of the cost of an new indoor stadium.