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New masterplan for stadium

New masterplan for stadium
The Ashburton District Council owns land to the west of EA Networks Centre that has been earmarked for future sports field development. PHOTO JONATHAN LEASK

As it nears its tenth anniversary, the public is once again being asked for its views on the EA Networks Centre.

The stadium and aquatic centre was built with a view to becoming a sports hub for the district, but that is yet to eventuate.

A draft masterplan is being finalised and will be ready for public consultation in March, Ashburton District Council people and facilities group manager Sarah Mosley said.

It’s not the first iteration of a masterplan for the site, with the most recent one produced in 2017. That was consulted on through the 2018 long-term plan process, but never actioned.

“The site analysis work contained within the 2017 plan remains current and valuable, but the new plan will be a fresh look as it is based on recent utilisation study findings,” Mosley said.

The masterplan was a flow on from the utilisation study released last year, which looked at how sports groups use the district’s sporting facilities and fields to assist in planning future development projects.

The council owns a large tract of land, around 15 hectares, to the west of the sports centre, which aimed to future proof the site by providing room for the stadium to be extended and space for a variety of outdoor sports.

A $21m stadium extension is being proposed in the long term plan, a potential three court extension that includes a mezzanine, to be built in 2028/29-2030/31).

A separate project is making some internal layout modifications to provide a studio space that could be used for dance and other activities.

An estimated $22m extension of the EA Network aquatic centre was removed from the plan due to budget constraints.

The 2012 concept plan had the stadium surrounded by a velodrome, hockey turf and the green fields development included a rugby field, cricket oval and bowling green.

The 2017 green fields concept plan had a central stand and changing room surrounded by rugby fields and a softball diamond.

A 2017 concept plan layout of the green fields sports hub development.

The utilisation study confirmed that during peak hours, after 5pm and during the weekends, demand for indoor courts exceeded the four the centre has.

The facility is deemed too small to hold large scale tournaments and minority sports are finding it difficult to grow their sports due to lack of court space.

The study also highlighted a need for a second hockey turf - due to a need to eventually replace the existing turf and to meet demand.

The report also suggested Argyle Park could be redeveloped to become the home of football and softball.

Velodrome vision out of sight

A 2012 concept plan of the EA Networks Centre and green fields sports hub development. PHOTO ASHBURTON GUARDIAN

There had been a campaign to fund a world class velodrome next to the EA Networks Centre.

It has never materialised.

One of the project leaders, Donald Sutton, said there was “no appetite” from the council to help fund it and the Tinwald Velodrome Trust was now looking to use its funds to invest in the Tinwald Cycling Cub's existing facilities in the future.

“It’s a real shame because Christchurch doesn’t have one and the region is lacking one, and cycling is so strong in Mid-South Canterbury.

“It’s an opportunity missed."

The velodrome plan was hatched in 2008 and gained momentum in 2010 when it was one of the 11 locations that applied to be the home of the Government-funded National Cycling Centre of Excellence.

Sport & Recreation NZ decided in 2011 to put the $7m towards the velodrome being built at Cambridge.

The Tinwald Velodrome Trust kept fundraising and there was momentum for the estimated $7m project to be built adjacent to the EA Networks Centre.

A 2012 concept plan layout even shows the velodrome next the stadium as part of sports hub concept.

When the centre opened in 2015, the velodrome was still being planned as a complementary project and money was still being raised.

It is now unlikely it will ever go ahead, but the trust still has money tucked away to invest in the future, Sutton said.

“Not to say it will be a velodrome. It could just be upgrading what we have got in Tinwald.”

By Jonathan Leask