OPINION - THE SOUTHLAND TIMES
Yesterday's announcement that Hamilton is being given more time to come up with the money to build the national cycling centre should not come as a surprise, writes Nathan Burdon in this week's Straight Up.
While the Government is providing $7 million, local funders being asked for a significant amount to make the project a reality.
Hamilton has just opened the $68 million Claudelands Events Centre and it's understood there are already concerns about whether it will be able to pay for itself. The interest alone would amount to about $4m a year.
Then there's the development of Waikato Stadium and the back rent owed by the Waikato Rugby Union and the money the council there has lost on the V8s. No surprise the region's mayors reportedly balked at committing $5m to $7m towards the scheme, which would include a new velodrome and BMX track at Cambridge, as well as the existing mountainbike trails at Rotorua.
Sparc has now given the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Home of Cycling Trust bid until some time in September to get the money together, with chief executive Peter Miskimmin playing down the latest development.
"This is not unexpected as the trust signalled in its tender documents, as did other bidders, that they will need time to do this. We have agreed to the extension of time as there are council processes which need to be respected and cannot be short-circuited. This also allows for community buy-in."
Miskimmin has kept the heat on, however, by pointing out the other two shortlisted tenderers – Auckland and Palmerston North – were waiting in the wings should Hamilton fall over.
"Sparc and BikeNZ had hoped to be able to announce the successful tenderer today. However, the national cycling centre of excellence will be built only once, so we need to ensure that the right decision is made."
It's understood Palmerston North is much closer to getting the money together, but that it still needs something like $3m.
You might wonder where Cycling Southland, and the country's only current indoor velodrome, sits in all this.
After electing not to enter the tendering process, Cycling Southland has let Sparc know it would be a perfectly good fallback option – as it has been for the past three years, a time in which the New Zealand elite track squad has produced unparalleled success.
The ILT Velodrome was considered not up to sufficient standard for a centre of excellence because it does not have a single-span roof and can seat only 1100.
Quite why Sparc is so keen to build a velodrome capable of hosting the world championships (unlikely) or the Olympics (impossible) is hard to fathom.
Then again, the sport's governing body, the UCI, can't be too choosy about where it sends its marque events because Invercargill will host the junior world championships next year.
The success of a velodrome, as Cycling Southland has proved, is about how it is used outside of the short periods when it is occupied by BikeNZ's elite, junior or development squads.
At a time when the Government is borrowing $300m a week, building a velodrome that could sit empty for much of its life seems a little extravagant.
» Nathan Burdon has been the Southland Times sports editor since 2003 and has won numerous journalism awards, including provincial sports writer of the year.
- The Southland Times