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Max Bania: Vic Park a stellar option for Test cricket

opinion Max Bania

By Max Bania

Published: 10:03AM Friday June 15, 2012 Source: ONE Sport

These are exciting times for Auckland cricket. Not often you hear that.

If what's being reported is true and plans are afoot for a 10,000-capacity purpose-built stadium over at Victoria Park, it would be a huge boost not just for the city but for the health of Test cricket nationwide.

To borrow a few Aucklandisms this is all about location, location, location. Nestled perfectly between the CBD, the trendy suburb of Ponsonby and the rapidly-expanding Wynyard Quarter area, Victoria Park is prime real estate with unparalleled investment opportunities.

There's ample foot traffic in the area and walk-up crowds would be immense. For those who have never seen a Test in Auckland, there's the chance to satisfy that particular curiosity; while fans old enough to remember the 1992 World Cup will be able to relive those glory days while paying five times as much for a beer.

Office workers could sneak away at lunchtime and after work. For those who can't reach the game by foot, public transport infrastructure is already in place to get them there.

The ground could be easily filled during the HRV Cup, too. We've already seen over the last couple of summers how successful the hot weather and carnival atmosphere of Twenty20 cricket has been in drawing new fans in.

New Zealand Cricket knows it simply cannot afford to continue overlooking its biggest cricket market. When it stripped Eden Park of Test status in 2006, it no doubt hoped an alternative venue would be found swiftly.

But this is Auckland, where nothing happens in a hurry, if it happens at all. NZC will surely be rubbing its hands together at the prospect of today's announcement.

The Victoria Park oval would be infinitely preferable to the other option reportedly on the table: playing Test and four-day cricket at a new ground mired in suburban wasteland outside North Harbour Stadium.

An Albany venue would be a disaster for the same reason the inner-city option would succeed. People will happily walk up to watch a day of Test cricket, but few will drive for half an hour.

The success of Wellington's Basin Reserve and Hamilton's Seddon Park as boutique grounds is that they're in vibrant inner-city areas. Casual fans can come and go, whereas at Albany they would be stuck for the day, with few distractions from the cricket.

A Victoria Park option would provide distractions aplenty, as well as lunchtime options outside the ground for those not enamoured with hot dogs and - most importantly - plenty of after-match watering holes in close proximity.

It's easy to see how the Victoria Park option might get shouted down. Green space is at a premium in Auckland's CBD and many locals - including the many buffs from the local gym - will scream blue murder at having their park taken over by a sporting venue and with some justification.

How the council handles the backlash will be crucial. They must come up with plans that cause minimal disruption to the thousands of joggers, dog walkers and others who seek temporary escape from the humdrum of the city every day.

An obvious idea would be to make the stadium open to the public when not in use. The Basin Reserve is a popular thoroughfare on non-cricket days. Another trade-off would be to create new public space elsewhere; perhaps in the gentrified Wynyard Quarter area, as has previously been mooted.

Almost any concession and trade-off would be worth it both for the health of the game and the enjoyment of the fans. As anyone who has enjoyed a weekend on the bank at the Basin Reserve will tell you, a purpose-built, inner-city cricket ground is an asset well worth having in any city.

What do you think? Comment below.

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  • baylee1997 said on 2012-06-15 @ 21:21 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Eden Park has been there longer than any resident that lives in that area. It was designed for sport!!! If residents do not like sport, then they should not have moved next to a large sports ground like Eden Park. It is not as if things go on through the night! The absolute same applies to Western Springs! People who want quiet lives should move to quiet areas, not next door to sports arenas......so shut up and let the rest of the city enjoy what those venues were designed for.

  • RugbyHair said on 2012-06-15 @ 11:01 NZDT: Report abusive post

    I'm no big cricket fan & I like having a large grassed area handy to workplaces for a nice break (walk, jog, kick the footer) - but I would definitely catch a session or 2 of test cricket (for the first time ever) if a match was going on. I would also stop by after work if a 20/20 was about to start. Plenty of employers around there (Vodafone, AirNZ, Microsoft, HP, etc). Just gotta get smart on preserving as much of the green space as poss for leisure.

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