The Eye of the Fish

May 31, 2017

New Arena

So much exciting architectural news on at the moment I hardly know where to start, including the surprise decision to award consent for a hotel/apartment building down by the Bus Interchange (pretty silly decision seeing as the last building went to court), signs of movement on the Christchurch Cathedral rebuild front (but decisions still being put off again and again: heads should roll: pawn takes bishop etc), a proposed boardwalk round to Shelly Bay (we all know that current road can’t cope – but who pays for a new road?), but really, for me, the big news is the announcement of a proposed big new indoor arena.
The link above to the Stuffed DomPost is remarkably free of detail, but the salient points are:
The Wellington region looks set to get a new indoor arena that could take the massive concerts that Wellington is currently missing out on:

“the plans were for an 8000 to 12,000 seated arena, but it would more likely be about 10,000 and would be modelled on the Spark Arena (previously Vector) in Auckland”
“Wellington promotor Phil Sprey said he urged planners to build a 15,000-seat arena to future-proof the venue. “Then you could see all the major artists that have been playing Vector Arena.”

Essentially this is the memorial Ed Sheeran stadium proposal – clearly the Mayor and Councillors are incensed that worldwide every other centre of civilisation is getting a night of ginger crooning from the wide-mouthed bearded one, except for Wellington. No one really wants to fly up to Auckland or down to Dunedin for a concert and the only answer is to build a suitably sized arena here (can you imagine the transport clusterfuck that would happen if people on-masse tried to get from Auckland Airport to Mt Smart or Vector; or the sky-high cost if you tried to get from the depths of hell where Dunedin airport is, into town to the new rolling-roof stadium?). The current waterfront TSB Arena is truly awful and inadequate, we all know that, although the one good thing about it is its position right in the heart of town. Size, though, is the key thing to get right. The current TSB Arena is only just over 2000m2 in size and can take nearly 4000 people sitting down or nearly 6000 people standing up. It is directly over an expensive Wilson Car Park, but better than that – it is within walking, bussing and training distance of most of Wellington city and is well connected to the region. But the size, shape, acoustics, and sightlines are pretty shit.

Clearly then, a location that works well for a larger concert venue is the key thing to find. On this subject, Mayor Lester is reported as saying:

“Possible sites for the new arena could be near Westpac Stadium, the railway station, the waterfront, or the central city entertainment precinct,” but concert promotor Phil Sprey says “the best site would have been on the waterfront, where the logs are kept, but given recent earthquake issues, … Petone is an alternative.”

Other sites that spring to mind for me are the old showgrounds in Newtown, or the Basin Reserve if they aren’t going to use it for cricket any more, but for reasons of connecting to the transport links out to the wider region, it probably will end up somewhere on the waterfront. Replacing the current TSB Arena is one obvious answer that has been looked at for years, but to get the size needed, a taller roof and larger floor plate would be needed and those things aren’t going to go down well with residents whose views would get shafted.

An obvious place nearby used to be on top of Fran Wilde – the concourse to the stadium, not the actual woman – but I dunno – after the Kaikoura quakes, I’m not so sure that people will be wanting to proposed a large heavy weighty stadium be suspended in mid-air above our main transport links. Too many unanswered possibilities for disaster. The log farm is another possibility – indeed, there are so many logs there that we can’t get onto export ships, maybe we just make the whole Arena out of logs and get some nice acoustic woodiness into the bargain. Centreport is quite evidently thoroughly fucked, with no real signs of returning to business, and so conceivably there is a lot of spare land going cheap there – as long as you can stop any such Arena from descending back into the ooze of the sea bed.

Of course, another option might be Frank Kitts Park, seeing as no one really wants the proposed revamp of the gardens (sorry Megan Wraight Associates but it is true) nor the proposed Chinese Garden there either (again, sorry Megan, nice design wrong site!), but people do like to run and walk around the grass there so building a 12,000 seat arena there would be unpopular. Mayor Lester seems to be saying that a couple of blocks of land somewhere in Te Aro could happily go missing – the newly renovated Briscoe store and the nearby shitty old warehouse buildings off Marion could be happily axed – or somewhere down on Hania St, in place of all those boring old car showrooms (selling rapidly irrelevant outdated technology: petrol engined cars). The real contender though, could well be the most centrally placed one of all: Reading Cinemas old carpark site and the proposed Countdown supermarket.

Let’s face it: Countdown have had years to build their supermarket but show no signs of even starting, and Reading were talking about adding on an upmarket boutique cinema complex as well but that seems as dead as a dog in a ditch, so why not string together a line of big bang event centers: Te Papa, the Film Museum, Convention Centre, and an Arena linking right into the heart of Courtenay Place? Massive convergence of people. Perfectly placed for buses or walking or light rail. Taller objects all in a row. Firmer ground than out on the edge of the harbour. Lots of restaurants and hotels near by. Right on the route to the airport for visitors. Courtenay Place and Cuba St are venues for busking nearby – a great link back to Ed Sheeran’s busking roots. And all that is a lot better than Petone!

31 - 05 - 17

What about car parking? They’ve demolished the car park building- what are people meant to do?

Seamonkey Madness
31 - 05 - 17

What about car parking? There are abundant public transport links on Courtenay, so you wouldn’t need to dedicate dead space to personal transport. A drop-off/pick-up space would be adequate.

The “Countdown” site would be the ideal spot Levi. The only downside (and it is a big one) is that it is actually a smaller area than the current TSB.
If you knock down Mama Brown/Hot Yoga and the Master Builders offices, then you’ve got a shot at a good size to play with – approx. 6,400m².

31 - 05 - 17

Is Fran really that fragile? With a bunch of grunty, base-isolated pillars holding it up and plenty of scope for Megan Wraight to debrutalise the open spaces, a performance venue next to the Cake Tin would rationalise public transport and substantially improve the current steps and steppes approach to the stadium.

And don’t even joke about no more cricket at the Basin!

31 - 05 - 17

I was going to sit down to do a long extensive comparison of pieces of land to answer SeaMonkey’s question – but then I remembered that way back in the dark distant ages, Max had done something similar. I’ve just been searching for it – and here it is, from 2010:

I’d thoroughly recommend that Justin Lester have a look at it – as well as SeaMonkey Madness – although, as I’ve never met either of them, they could be the very same person. Wouldn’t that be fun? Anyway – yes – read that !

Andy – yeah, the simple answer is just: naah. Lots of buses routes nearby mate! No need for car parking!

Starkive – I honestly haven’t the faintest about Fran’s walkway – but i am just imagining that Engineers may be being a lot more cautious nowadays, after the publication of a report outlining the “Wellington Basin” effect. Basically, earthquake shockwaves seem to bounce off the edge of hard rock under the soft ooze on top, and so anything built on reclaimed land is at more risk than we had thought before. Reading site is also on reclaimed land as well of course, but it has been there for nearly 150 years and is close to the beach – whereas Fran Wilde walk is on land that is newer, and further from the hard stuff. It would depend on geotech reports as to what they say – I’d imagine that getting a geotech report done fast these days is very tricky, as they are probably checking and rechecking all their calcs ever…

31 - 05 - 17

Where’s the concert?

31 - 05 - 17

JCB – it’s Bryan May (i.e. Queen) in concert at Wembley Arena in Feb 2015 – not Wembley Stadium, but the smaller venue at the side. Image (obviously) taken by May on a selfie stick. Key thing to note is that it is a smaller, roof able arena, rather than a vast stadium. Worth watching this video link if you want to see the inside of the Arena.

31 - 05 - 17

Seamonkey – re the size of the site – you are, Mr Monkey, absolutely right. It is just not big enough.
But it is in the right position!

Surely some clever architects could make it work though? I’ll stick my hand up for that !

31 - 05 - 17

Note: Wembley Arena = 12,500 seated. Presumably more if standing. Covered, with sliding roof, so it can be open.
Wembley Stadium = 90,000 seated. Open, with roof so it can be covered.

Incidentally, I wish there was some way of getting into the heads of the people who keep wittering on to the Dom Post about: “Should have put a roof on the Stadium at the time” or the even more ludicrous “They should stick a roof on the stadium now”. Very silly silly statements.

People need to remember that it was because of the concerted efforts of the Thorndon residents that the Stadium has such a low lid and such a flat top. The height limit was set very definitely so that all the influential Thorndon people would not have their sea views blocked – and the Council was made to cross its heart and hope to die if it ever broke those limits. So, a completely covered roof was ruled out and the building was then made with beams sized for its present task only. I’ve been assured by the engineers that there is no way you could ever add a retractable roof on the CakeTin as the current structure is – quite simply – not strong enough. So that’s it, OK? No more asking for a retractable roof on the CakeTin.

1 - 06 - 17

Wellington Scoop also have some commentary here:

1 - 06 - 17

Scoop’s lead writer Lindsay Shelton makes some good points in their article noted above, about possible alternative venues. He lists the following:

“The City Council already owns all the capital’s big concert venues: the St James, the Opera House, the Town Hall (once it has been re-strengthened), the Michael Fowler Centre, Shed 6, and the TSB Arena (better known as the Events Centre, and recognised as a flawed space). Why does it want another one – that’s even bigger? Its ambition to build a venue for rock concerts has never been supported by any business plan. But the council has been claiming that occasional concerts will somehow lead to economic growth…. ….Instead of dreaming of white elephants, Wellington should be much more creative in using its existing venues, instead of allowing them to stay closed most of the time. The St James and the Opera House are both beautiful auditoriums, which are shamefully under-used. The Hannah Playhouse needs more bookings. Circa and Bats are proof of how such places should be alive and attracting audiences every night of the year. Not forgetting the magnificent Town Hall which the council seems content to keep closed for another five years. And not allowing the Paramount auditorium to be de-commissioned.”

But how big are each of those venues? Are they not all much the same size range? Hold on – I’ll go do some sums…

2 - 06 - 17

knock westpac down and build a 20k arena onsite, with a roof. For football rugby & concerts. Westpac is jack of all trades master of none.

Henry Filth
3 - 06 - 17

If the TSB place’s “. . . size, shape, acoustics, and sightlines are pretty shit.”, then why not pull it down, and build something that isn’t “pretty shit”?

It’d be a perfect excuse to do something about the truly awful access to the remaining strip of waterfront. . .

4 - 06 - 17

Luke and Henry – those are both pretty fair comments really, to which the answer is probably yes, except for the question of money. The ratepayers of Greater Wellington are still paying off the Stadium in their rates each year, so advocating to knock it down and build anew would probably be unpopular with some…. I’m not sure who owns the TSB Arena (WCC?), but i think that they know that if they were to knock it down, there would be intense pressure to build something else smaller, rather than larger. I’ve been to a match of the Breakers there – it worked ok for that, with seating on all sides, but it doesn’t work so well for concerts, being too long and thin to really work – and the acoustics are shit because the roof / ceiling is metal and it is clearly not designed with concerts in mind.

The other question is, of course, why the Council didn’t build the ASB Sports hall (in Rongotai) in town instead. We wouldn’t be having this conversation now if that had been the case.

Seamonkey Madness
6 - 06 - 17

Levi, only 5 more months of bills for Westpac Stadium! (It is actually Nov 2017, not 2018 as per the headline.)

andy foster
7 - 06 - 17

Levi – you may recall that I worked with a group including Fletchers. BECA, Ian Maskell (Now MD of The Building Intelligence Group), Dunning Thornton etc – promoting the City’s indoor sports venue as a concert capable facility (bit like Auckland’s facility) in the City. Our proposal was to use the Fran Wilde walkway if you recall but the Council was determined to build a stand alone sports only facility in Kilbirnie. As predicted that can only have added to traffic congestion, missed the opportunity to add to central city vitality, and will ultimately cost the city either the opportunity to have a concert venue or $40 odd million dollars because we’ve built and operate two separate facilities.

Warmest regards