Stunning stadium pitched for Auckland, sunken into waterfront


Jaw-dropping concepts for an iconic new national stadium have been pitched to Auckland Council, proposing a state-of-the-art arena be submerged into the city’s waterfront. A portfolio of spectacular designs can be revealed from documents delivered to the office of Auckland Mayor Phil Goff last month. The Herald on Sunday has obtained them through the Local Government Official Information and Meeting Act [LGOIMA].

Dubbed The Crater, the idea centres on a subterranean multi-events venue, inverting conventional design by building below ground rather than above. Created by Auckland design and marketing figure Phil O’Reilly, three potentials factor in a core concept of a sunken bowl-type arena, as well as renderings of a roofed version. A third concept incorporates new cruise ship terminals that would flank the facility, although O’Reilly said the general idea could also work inland if the waterfront was dumped as a location.

Communications through Goff’s office, released through the LGOIMA, show O’Reilly submitted the artist impressions to the office of the Mayor on March 15, accompanied by a written proposal. O’Reilly said as far as he is aware, the submerged venue would be the first of its kind anywhere in the world and was a chance for Auckland to build an iconic landmark that would be recognised the world over – but in keeping with Auckland’s natural volcanic landscape. “We always do something derivative that is quite cool but not quite up to it. This is an opportunity to do something that is truly unique,” O’Reilly said.

Although not as large in scale, likely between 30,000-50,000 capacity, O’Reilly said a truly cutting-edge design could see the Kiwi venue punch way above its weight and become as recognised as some of the most famous on Earth. “You’ve got to think outside the box. Why not put it into the harbour?” O’Reilly said his ideas have not been formally costed, but conversations with industry experts have him adamant that digging down is cheaper than building up. “From my discussions, because there is no need to build an above-ground structure, there are no architectural issues – or costs associated to that,” he said. “It would be cheaper to significantly cheaper, and Aucklanders would love that.”


The safety of a stadium sunk into open water is also an obvious concern. But O’Reilly was confident rising sea levels as well as natural disasters could be handled. “I would always compare other infrastructure, particularly like Britomart, that’s a great example that has tens of thousands of people going through it each week and is below sea level,” he said. O’Reilly he’d had no word back from Goff’s office beyond an “automatic reply” to his email.

Communications released under LGOIMA show Goff’s office forwarded O’Reilly’s pitch to Council’s venues arm, Regional Facilities Auckland (RFA), whose chief executive Chris Brooks responded, acknowledging receipt. An initial study has been commissioned by RFA to examine whether Eden Park should be replaced by a new stadium somewhere in downtown Auckland. An RFA spokesman said that report, which is being prepared by global accounting and advisory firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, “should be through to the mayor sometime within in the next 5-6 weeks”.

When asked for comment on The Crater, RFA said it won’t be considering any specific stadium designs or concepts until a strategy is settled. “As we have previously announced, RFA has engaged professional advisers to work with it on a pre-feasibility study to determine the viability of establishing a purpose-built National Football Stadium (NFS) located in the central city,” a spokesman said.

“The pre-feasibility will determine the viability of central city locations and business scope for a potential stadium.” Goff has previously said Auckland could not afford a white elephant, adding the 50,000-seat Eden Park was limited to 21 night events and could need another $250 million spent on it over the next 15 years.

In March last year, rich-lister and Vodafone Warriors owner Eric Watson pledged to invest in a new stadium for downtown Auckland, believing there were “benefits for Auckland”. Watson also revealed he had already approached other potential investors. Talking to the Herald on Sunday, Watson welcomed O’Reilly’s crater concept, as he eagerly awaits the upcoming PwC report. “I understand the PwC Feasibility Study is not far off but in the meantime it’s great to see options for how a waterfront stadium could work,” Watson said. He said he would support a location that “stacks up financially and is ‘the best option’ in terms of a range of factors”.

That included transport and parking options, commercial opportunities, multi-use options of the venue and “visual appearance”. “Ultimately the location and design that ticks as many boxes and meet as many needs as possible will ultimately be the best option for the city. It will be interesting to see what the PwC Feasibility Study recommends.”


  • Simon Plumb
  • NZ Herald


$200m luxury hotel plans confirmed

HyattViaductBetter_620x310US multinational hotel chain Hyatt has been named as the new operator of a luxury $200 million Auckland waterfront hotel to be developed by a Chinese property group.

PM John Key and Chinese president Xi Jinping unveiled plans for the Wynyard Quarter hotel to be branded a Park Hyatt and in a written statement Madam Chan Lawai, chairwoman of Beijing-headquartered Fu Wah International Group, said she was glad to “commence such a great project in New Zealand. New Zealand has always been friendly to China and is one of the first countries to have signed a trade agreement with China.”

The hotel will be built on the Team New Zealand headquarters Halsey St site, between the distinctive pale Lighter Quarter apartments and the Viaduct Events Centre, opposite the new ASB North Wharf where Halsey St meets Madden St and Jellicoe St.

An application to develop the hotel has been made to Auckland Council, with construction expected to start soon and the hotel to open in 2017, a written statement said.

The six-level 25,000sq m 190-room hotel will have three restaurants, spa and fitness centre, 25m pool and was designed by Singaporean-headquartered architects AR+D working with much-awarded New Zealand business, Bossley Architects. The interior will be by Conran + Partners.

Hyatt was in Auckland for about three decades, managing the big hotel on Waterloo Quadrant opposite Old Government House near the High Court.

4e91af4e1189b5ba1a88a99d49c7a86d75f48401_620x310The Hyatt was re-branded a Pullman earlier this decade. In January 2011, the Herald reported that the Hyatt sign had disappeared from the roof of one of Auckland’s top hotels and after 26 years the property has a new name.

Chiu Yung, Fu Wah president and the son of Madam Chan, said the new hotel would be a landmark on the waterfront and would be built to very high environmental standards. The group will invest around $200 million in the project, with $2.5 million committed to the development of a public space and art display in the area around the hotel in Wynyard Quarter, to give people access to the marina and water.

“The site of the hotel is special – right on the water of one of the world’s finest harbour settings – so we feel a responsibility to build a landmark hotel. The design is one which meets high environmental standards with an emphasis on unique New Zealand features developed in collaboration with the one of New Zealand’s most highly regarded architects. We are thrilled to be involved in a building and hotel of this scale and quality.

“We are very pleased to have partnered with the Park Hyatt brand. We recently invested into their Melbourne hotel. Their commitment to five star excellence dovetails with the market niche that fits a hotel with the significant features of this offering.

“This is Fu Wah’s first investment into New Zealand but we are exploring a number of other projects. We see significant potential and want to be long-term investors in high quality projects. We are grateful we were able to mark the project by unveiling the model at an event involving China’s President and New Zealand’s Prime Minister. This is very much a partnership between our two countries,” he said in a written statement, released this morning.

Larry Tchou, senior advisor, Asia Pacific, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts said the company was excited to share the announcement of a Park Hyatt hotel in Auckland.

“We are grateful to further our relationship with Fu Wah, the owner of Park Hyatt Melbourne, with this new partnership which will bring the first Park Hyatt hotel to New Zealand. Auckland is a key tourist and business destination and we are honoured to collaborate with Fu Wah and Auckland Waterfront for this landmark luxury development.

“This has been an exciting year for the Park Hyatt brand and we are committed to continue to create presence in culturally rich cities like Auckland,” he said.

John Dalzell, chief executive of the Auckland Council-controlled entity Waterfront Auckland, said the five star international quality hotel would be an exemplar project of what the Wynyard Quarter revitalisation is all about.

“The bar was set high with this project: an exceptional design to complement the award winning designs of other buildings and public spaces delivered to date; an investor that was willing to look long term; and an appreciation of the importance of building sustainably.

“Fu Wah has stepped up on all accounts and the result will be a true international standard hotel that, over time, will become a key catalyst for economic activity on the waterfront and the Auckland region as a whole.”


  • Anne Gibson
  • NZ Herald
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