new auckland

Stanley St re-boot up against funding pressures

Plans by Auckland Tennis for a retractable roof at Stanley Street have been ditched for now. But a new Auckland Council report warns that the rest of the redevelopment is in danger too, if some surety of funding doesn't come soon. 

The report points out that funding already promised is not legally committed to, and the money was pledged on the basis of bringing an all-weather tennis venue to the city. It also suggests that without council help, there is a danger of other donors reneging on grants that have already been rolled over several times.

Tennis Auckland says no backers have threatened to do so - and the roof remains part of the project plan. However Chief executive Marcus Reynolds says the immediate priority is upgrading Stanley Street's stands and meeting the 3500 capacity required by the event's tournament licence.

At the moment Auckland's hugely successful summer tennis tournaments have an exemption from those world tour minimum requirements.

"Tennis Auckland is committed to making the redevelopment a reality and retaining the ASB Classic," says Reynolds. 

"The ASB Classic has been regularly voted as the players favourite tournament on the Tour. This is despite the big budgets and significant government investment other tournaments benefit from. Our infrastructure has to keep pace with the expectations of spectators and players, both in terms of its quality and capacity."

Reynolds says they have a strong business case for council investment. 

The council report on the situation says it's important that Tennis Auckland can show the WTA/ATP that it's actively working towards increasing seating capacity to 3500 in the foreseeable future so that future tournaments are secured.

Tennis Auckland is seeking council approval to use a previously-approved $5.5 million grant, which was to have been a contribution towards the retractable roof, for an upgrade of the ASB Tennis Arena’s south and west stands to meet those minimum seating requirements.  

Stage 1A of the previously announced redevelopment, the west stand, will also allow for new women’s toilet facilities, a communications room and an Uninterrupted Power Supply room. The estimated cost for 1A is $10.555 million. It is still only partially funded but there is confidence that amount will be raised. Tennis Auckland anticipates signing a construction contract next month, with a completion date by October this year.

Fundraising is still being done for stage 1B, and no construction dates have been set. The cost to rebuild the south stand is $9.118m. Further down the track the north and east stands will cost another $5m and the roof was costed at $11m – a total project cost of over $35m. 

The council report prepared for Thursday’s Domain Committee says supporting the re-allocation of funds from the roof grant to stage one will increase the prospects of securing future ATP/WTA tournaments.

“This will ensure future tournaments are secured for Auckland, ahead of the tournaments being allocated to rival cities such as Brisbane or Doha.

“It will recognise that a retractable roof may be desirable, however current funding options preclude this from inclusion in the foreseeable future,” the report says.

Stanley Street's re-imagined centre court. Image: via Auckland Council 

The Domain committee is not being asked to make financial decisions, but to tick procedural boxes as landowner, that will give Auckland Tennis the right to redevelop Stanley St. The test of those plans going ahead will be at the full council finance committee in March, which will be also be a test of council priorities.

Domain Committee chair Mike Lee says the finance committee will “have to look at it afresh” given the struggle for the ratepayer dollar. He says originally the plan was sold as a stadium with a roof, essential to counter Auckland’s unreliable summers. “That’s apparently not the case now, so council will have to start anew, I think.” He believes the inflated Auckland construction market is to blame for the collapse of the roof plans, but says with Auckland Council up against its debt ceiling, the funding will have to be looked at again.

The council report states that international competition to host tournaments is fierce, “and Auckland is currently fending off challenges from Brisbane and Doha for the rights to host the world cup matches.”  But Lee is not moved by the thought that Auckland may lose the summer tournaments to rivals.

“I’m sick of all these threats when money is involved ….’if you don’t do this we will lose that’ …  like the America’s Cup.”

The council report says the most significant risk for the redevelopment project is that Tennis Auckland won’t be able to raise sufficient funds to complete the work.

"While there is proposed timing for each stage of the development, there is a high probability that the timetable will undergo significant slippage if funds are not raised in a timely manner. Several funders have signalled that further ‘roll-overs’ of grants may not be possible as this has already occurred previously. There is the risk that this funding will then lapse.

“Any deferral of the stages is likely to result in cost increases, meaning further fundraising will be required and a further extension of the timetable.”

Conditions attached to some of the secured funding require the money to have been spend by certain dates or the grants will lapse – and in many instances that funding has been rolled over several times already.

“If council funding is withdrawn or reduced, there is a significant risk that other funders will withdraw their funding support, and the whole project will become untenable,” the report says.

Auckland Council has allocated $3m in the 2012 -2022 Long Term Plan, and agreed in principle three years ago to another $2.5m, subject to conditions. However those funds were granted based on the roof plan going ahead. The Council has no legal obligations that commit it to grant funding.

Tennis Auckland however is confident. 

Reynolds says they have a strong business case for council investment. 

"Given the growth and success of the ASB Classic our statistics are based on actual results and figures rather than estimates," he says. "As well as the strong economic benefits there are significant social benefits. The surplus from the ASB Classic helps fund community tennis across the region, including three public tennis facilities, the Hot Shots programme delivery to 9500 primary school aged children, services to our 8400 members and competitions for 1264 inter-club teams."

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