Wellington Scoop

Hard questions about the indoor arena


Dave Armstrong’s devastating dissection of the indoor arena proposal should be making local politicians move quickly to cancel the extravagant idea.

Writing in the DomPost on Monday, he asks 27 “hard questions” about the arena plan, including:

Will it really help the local arts scene [as Justin Lester has suggested], where most arts events attract between 25 and 250 punters?


If a 10,000-seat arena is economically viable, why have private concert promoters not banded together to build one?

He validly raises the issue of a new council-owned venue competing with the council’s other existing venues:

Will the new arena cannibalise existing venues like the 5000-seat TSB Bank Arena, creating a false economic “benefit”? If the TSB arena becomes even more of a white elephant, would the council consider allowing ratepayers like me to personally take part in its demolition? Could a new arena make the roof-less Cake Tin an expensive-to-maintain dinosaur?

If the 10,000-seat arena gets built, will local politicians start advocating for a smaller sports venue so the Phoenix/Pulse/Saints/Firebirds/Lions don’t feel they are playing in an empty stadium?

There’s also the question of cost:

If the “$100 million” Film Museum and Convention Centre could now cost over $150 million, what could a “$130 million-$180 million” arena end up costing?

And the question of how often it would be used. On this, Dave quotes Kerry Prendergast’s estimate which is: ten events per year. That leaves a large number of days every year when the venue would be (expensively) sitting closed and empty. And a large number of questions needing to be answered, if the council presses on with such an unconvincing proposal.

Read Dave Armstrong’s article in full here.
And also
Jo’s white elephant
A great idea, till you ask difficult questions


  1. Elaine Hampton, 6. September 2017, 12:24

    Wellington Council debt sat at $500 million in 2016! What is it today? And are we seriously talking of adding to this before paying it down. Sounds like seriously bad housekeeping to me. Film museum, $100million, Shelly Bay, $100 – 200million added? And why are we paying for services and not the developers if these are viable propositions?
    Justin Lester was quite confident about debt when questioned in the Council elections. “We have the income” he said. Really? When so much income goes on interest payments, this is very poor money management, if you are a ratepayer. Not of course if you are a developer.

  2. KB, 6. September 2017, 13:41

    TSB seems to have an event almost weekly – with some of those events (like WoW) taking up multiple days. Simple solution would be to close TSB and repurpose that land (would have been a good spot for movie museum/convention centre) thereby combining all of TSB Arena current events with the 10 new large scale events expected for the new arena.

  3. JC, 6. September 2017, 13:44

    “Devastating dissection”… you have got to be kidding. Anyone can ask questions.

  4. Mike, 6. September 2017, 13:46

    The one question you know the answer to is: do we need another indoor concert/stadium venue? The answer is no.

  5. Michael Gibson, 6. September 2017, 14:02

    Elaine – I haven’t checked any figures recently but the DomPost published a letter from me earlier this year saying that the Council’s “long-term” plans to increase the debt from $400,000,000 to $800,000,000 were unacceptable.

  6. Hel, 6. September 2017, 19:39

    Questioning the merits of the need and case for an arena is valid, dismissing the idea because of questions is bordering on ridiculous. An arena doing 10 events per annum is a bizarre claim; there won’t be an arena in the world used so sparingly. I’d question the validity of this. [It comes from Kerry Prendergast, quoted in the DomPost last Saturday. Her knowledge and authority seems undeniable – she has chaired the Arts Festival, and she’s been mayor of the city.]

  7. Mark Cubey, 7. September 2017, 8:29

    Jethro Tull struggled to fill the St James. Not even close to the TSB. There is no reason to build a 10k room here. Don’t get sucked in by promoters who want their % of big bucks sucked out of this city to international agencies. We quickly need great 1000 and 600 theatre/concert rooms for this city. To support local creators. Huge gap. [via twitter]

  8. KB, 7. September 2017, 10:54

    The reason we need a 10,000 seat venue is not to house the B grade music acts who struggle to fill current Wellington venues, it is to attract the A grade acts that currently bypass the city due to a lack of a 10,000 seat arena. Chicken meet egg. {And Kerry Prendergast reckons there’d be ten of these per year … leaving a lot of down time in the big new space.]

  9. Glen Smith, 8. September 2017, 14:24

    The logic, cost and viability of a new indoor arena vs utilising our current facilities needs to be seriously questioned. The best 10,000+ outdoor venue would, in my view, be a revitalized Basin.