Future of Rugby Park discussed

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    Invercargill City councillor Peter Kett wants to increase Rugby Park use. Photo: Luisa Girao

    RENOVATING Invercargill’s Rugby Park is not just about rugby, it is about investing in Southland’s future, an Invercargill City councillor says.

    A meeting to discuss the future of the venue and explore its use for other community groups and events would be hosted by Cr Peter Kett today.

    He invited city and sports leaders, including Invercargill Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt, deputy mayor Toni Biddle, Rugby Southland board chairman Bernie McKone, acting general manager Simon Frisby, Rugby Southland Supporters Club president Tony Rabbitt and ILT Stadium manager and councillor Nigel Skelt.

    The state of Rugby Park would also be addressed, Cr Kett said.

    Rugby Southland staff had to move out of the stadium offices in the middle of last year due to issues with the structure. Another engineer’s report put more than 1500 seats in the main stand out of use because of worries about spectator safety.

    “Rugby Park is a great community asset… Should we save it or let it go? ”

    Cr Kett said he would report back to the council the findings of this meeting, but he believed something needed to be done quickly.

    The termination of the contract between Invercargill City Council and The Highlanders to host Super Rugby Games last year was a big loss for the city, he said.

    “This is an example of the necessity to sort this matter sooner than later, or we will keep missing good opportunities.

    “Rugby Park is the only multi-purpose outdoor arena in Invercargill and people can walk from town. It has huge potential and not just for rugby. It would be a shame if council decide not to save it.”

    Some suggestions were games from the New Zealand Warriors and Wellington Phoenix football as well as competitions like axeman and pipe bands.

    He believed if council addressed the matters this year, there would be a high probability for Invercargill to host an All Blacks test.

    An Invercargill City Council spokeswoman said it had previously been estimated that bringing the affected seats at the grandstand to 100% national building standards would cost $387,000.

    “There are other maintenance matters to be considered issue of toxic mould having been identified in the Rugby Southland/Supporters Club areas of the facility.”

    Since 2016, the Invercargill Charitable Trust, which owns Rugby Park, has received $300,000 in funding for long-term maintenance, and as of late 2019, the trust had spent $22,128.60.

    In the last financial year, Rugby Park had a profit of $31,600.

    She said a report presenting options would be put to council early this year.

    “Any decisions regarding funding of work required on the grandstand, and the wider Rugby Park facility, will need to be made by full council.”

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