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Hey big spenders

by Lindsay Shelton
Plans for more big spending are being thrown around by our elected representatives this morning.

Fran Wilde is resurrecting the idea of Wellington building a sixth concert venue – one that would hold 12,000 people. She must be aware of how seldom it would be used. And how it would quickly become an extravagant white elephant.

She thinks it should be looked at as a priority. But she qualifies her enthusiasm.

“I have no idea how it would be funded or where it would be built.”

Dave Burgess reports in the DomPost [1] that she doesn’t agree with the Hutt City Council proposal to build a boutique stadium at the Petone Rec.

“Without a business case it wouldn’t go anywhere. There is no feasibility study, there is no business case that I know of.”

Which raises the question of how any business case could be prepared to justify the cost of constructing 12,000-seat concert venue in Wellington. How many mega-groups exist in the world who would want to come to Wellington to occupy such a space? How many mega-groups would have the potential to sell 12,000 expensive tickets in Wellington?

Fran has no doubt noticed that there’ve been changes in ticket sales recently. The Sevens, and Homegrown – which are accustomed to selling out – both failed to sell all their tickets this year. Only WoW remains confident of increasing its sales, with 8000 more seats on sale this year. And it doesn’t need a new venue.

The city council, however, has no doubts. A 12,000-seat venue is one of its “eight big ideas.” [2] It says

We need facilities able to cater for … 12,000 music fans.

So where’s the business case giving specifics of the “need,” and where’s the list of top-rating groups who’ve told the council that they’re eager to come here once the new building has been completed, and paid for.

Also in the big spending category, the city council is investigating a multi-million dollar upgrade of Westpac Stadium. Dave Burgess reports that the council’s sport and recreation spokesperson Paul Eagle has asked for the investigation. He says

the Phoenix owners shouldn’t be tempted by carrots being dangled in front of them by Lower Hutt. It would be irresponsible of us to let other cities duplicate some of the infrastructure we’ve already got … Let us first exhaust the possibilities [of keeping Phoenix in Wellington].

He says retractable seating and the installation of a roof should be included in the investigation.

Could a business case be prepared for the cost of putting a roof over the stadium? If it happened, you’d expect that there’d be no need to keep talking about a 12,000 seat concert venue.

Of course, the Hutt people are talking about 12,000 seats if they can find the money to build their stadium in Petone. And if they can afford a roof, will they be hoping to book the Rolling Stones? Or Bruno Mars?