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America's Cup: Team NZ scores a futuristic new home

by Tim Murphy 2 Apr 2018 13:25 PDT 3 April 2018
The Viaduct Events Centre will be Emirates Team NZ's new home from October 2018, the upper level viewing deck to the right of the futuristic building will be open to the public so they can see the action in the ETNZ boatpark. © Richard Gladwell

The $212 million home for the next America's Cup is one that no one wanted - but everyone is now happy to make their own.

The Auckland Council agreed just before the Easter break to support an America's Cup village known as the Wynyard-Hobson option, something of a camel from six months of work by a three-humped committee, at a cost of $98.5 million to Auckland ratepayers, with the balance covered by taxpayers nationwide.

Included in the Government's contribution is a $40 million event hosting fee direct to Team NZ.

The seven bases for the America's Cup defender and likely challengers will be across three wharves, Hobson - which will be extended into the Waitemata Harbour for a double base for challenger of record Luna Rossa of Italy - Halsey, where Emirates Team NZ will take over the public Viaduct Events Centre rent-free for at least four years, and the old Tank Farm land and Wynyard Wharf for the rest.

The Wynyard-Hobson option agreed by the council, the Government and Team NZ is cheaper than previous plans but has less to offer in permanent, structural legacy for the Auckland waterfront.

All three parties wanted something else, with at least one plan advocated by each of them and with one having opened and closed for public submissions for resource consent. That plan will now be withdrawn and the new choice advanced for planning consents.

Publicly, Team NZ couldn't be happier with its use of the striking white building that is the Viaduct Events Centre, currently a conference and function venue that most lately hosted the gala dinner for visiting former US President Barack Obama.

The team chief executive, Kevin Shoebridge, told councillors at their meeting last Thursday: "The Viaduct Events Centre is probably the best thing that could happen towards making a successful defence of the America's Cup.

"It means a lot. We can now launch race boats in April 2019 and sail out of a permanent facility. We would have been operating over [a] myriad of places. That's a real positive. From the public's point of view it is going to be a fantastic location."

Team NZ will take over the centre, rent-free with the cost of up to $13 million over four years covered by the council, as soon as planning permission to change the structure and use of the facility is through.

Documents to the council say the eastern side of the centre will be permanently altered to allow the movement and launch of the race boats directly to the water.

The public will be able to access a viewing platform at the northern, harbour, end of the building and will be free to walk up Halsey Wharf beside the centre.

Shoebridge said the three challenger double-sized bases, for two-boat teams, have already been committed despite entries not closing for the Cup until June, with a late-entry deadline of the end of this year.

He predicted the employment benefits to the region would be substantial, with Team NZ itself requiring 30 non-race boats for the event as well as "close to $20 million of race boats for ourselves". The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) estimated late last year the Cup would create between 4700 and 8000 jobs over the period.

Challenge of Record Luna Rossa would bring a big contingent of sailing and support staff and would arrive earlier than others, probably being in Auckland for a year before the summer 2021 event.

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