Western Springs Speedway promoters are calling on the public to support a bid to keep racing at the historic Auckland venue.A plea has been put out for submissions to be made to the Auckland Council in support of Western Springs Speedway, and the deadline is 8:00 pm this Wednesday.Promoter Greg Mosen confirmed he wants 50,000 submissions, but said even half of that number will get the attention of Auckland Council.“[50,000] is a number that I picked,” Mosen told velocitynews.co.nz “I think if we get half that we’re going to be well on our way to having the council chambers go ‘oh, I think we might have a snake by the tail here.’”Mosen said it was crucial that people email rather than post to Auckland Council’s Facebook wall as some posts have allegedly been deleted.Want to make a submission? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and tell the council why speedway should stay at Western Springs.Regional Facilities Auckland (RFA) – an arm of the Auckland Council – are in charge of several stadiums throughout the region. Western Springs Speedway’s lease is with the RFA and is set to expire in March 2019.
A long-mooted Stadiums Strategy has been a talking point for nearly a decade. Several plans have been proposed, including replacing the Vodafone Warriors at Mount Smart Stadium in Penrose with speedway and moving them to QBE Stadium on the North Shore.Other proposals included shifting Western Springs’ activity to Waikaraka Park in Onehunga but would need to be supported with new infrastructure. That was suggested late last year by the Maungakeikei Local Board.
A new stadium on Auckland’s waterfront has long been a talking point prior to the 2011 Rugby World Cup but reared its head again in the last year as part of a national stadium concept.
However, the main proposal being questioned is to turn the Western Springs into an international cricket venue. The plans have divided Auckland Council, Regional Facilities Auckland, and speedway promoter Mosen.According to the Herald, recent plans have shifted the goal posts in the direction of the changeup going ahead. Tenders have been released for architectural designs to transform the venue into a cricket venue. Those designs are expected to cost anywhere between $2 million and $3 million.
The requirements of said design would allow a minimum seating capacity of 15,000 people. Eden Park currently sits up to 50,000.
Auckland Stadiums director for Regional Facilities Auckland Paul Nisbet told the Herald that the plan is to repurpose Western Springs.“As signalled previously, speedway activity is scheduled to end at Western Springs in March 2019,” he said“As part of that, essential renewal work on the venue and some design planning work for future use have been tendered.
“It is our intention to re-purpose Western Springs and the work being considered at the moment will make the venue suitable for future sporting use.
“As indicated in the RFP (Regional Facilities Plan), an international cricket oval is RFA’s preferred option. However, costs for any future work on Western Springs beyond the renewals programme will be considered as part of RFA’s overall capital budget in Auckland Council’s long-term plan. Last Friday Mosen put a plea out on the Western Springs Speedway Facebook page. Since then it has attracted nearly 4,000 shares, 1,500 likes and hundreds of comments. Mosen is fed up with the RFA and needs support from the public. He said getting anyone and everyone on his side is the first step towards their ultimate goal of keeping speedway at the venue.“We’ve tried to negotiate with the RFA for six years, it started before I got here,” he said.
“It has come to the point where they have become frustrated with us because they want us out and we are extremely frustrated with them because there is no substance to what they’re trying to sell to everybody.“We’re going to take them to task, but right at the moment, part of that strategy is that we need to support of motorsport people and non-motorsport people.
“We’ve had 268,000 people read that post that went up on Friday. I would suspect there’s quite a number of emails sitting at the council offices and submissions about why it should stay there.
“That’s phase one, and there are a number of phases to follow. All of the support we can get is greatly received. Time is not our friend. It all shuts down at 8:00pm on Wednesday night.”
Western Springs Speedway is a multipurpose venue, home to not only racing but music festivals and concerts as well as other events like Pasifika Festival.
Currently, New Zealand Cricket and Auckland Cricket play either inside Eden Park or on Eden Park’s second ground adjacent to the stadium.Regional Facilities Auckland has pitched that the venue be used for test match cricket as well as T20 and One Day International games. No mention has been made of domestic cricket, though that would likely be played at the venue too.
The first day/night test match is currently being held at Eden Park between the Blackcaps and England. The last test match there was held in February 2014. The use of Eden Park as a test venue has long been questioned given its small ground dimensions, but its historic significance has allowed it to be used for the game.
This Summer New Zealand had just four test matches played and that number isn’t expected to increase soon. The value of turning Western Springs Speedway into a cricket venue is being questioned given the lack of test match cricket being played. Despite speedway’s history at Western Springs, which dates back to 1929, racing may soon cease.
Mosen said he doesn’t believe rate payers should fork out the $30 million that has been tabled to revamp the speedway for what he believes will not attract the same crowds seen at their race meetings.“They won’t [get big crowds] and they’re going to spend a number of million dollars on Western Springs to try and make it work for them.
“They can’t play cricket on it at the moment. They say it’s $30 millions [to revamp the venue], but I reckon it’s more like $70 million.
“The reality is that there’s some 24 or 25 Saturday’s in Summer of which we’ve got 12 and we’re in their way. They want the freedom to do whatever they decide to do with that venue and we’re not on their scope.”Mosen believes the current plan needs to be scrapped all together and moves must be made towards a unified agreement. Currently Auckland Rugby’s Chairman Rex Smith and Ponsonby Rugby Chairman Chris Clews are said to be in favour of staying at their respective venues.
Mosen wants there to be better understanding from Regional Facilities Auckland. That would include more discussion across all sporting codes that need to be taken into consideration into any future movements.“They had a strategy. The first was to move the Warriors out of Mt Smart and shove all them off somewhere. That didn’t float so well. Then they took on the Eden Park Trust board to take over Eden Park and that fell over.“At the moment it’s a shambles and we don’t want to go anywhere either.“What we’re suggesting is that the Stadium Strategy goes in the bin and we pull out a fresh sheet of paper, we sit around and find an answer that best suits the Auckland rate payer and the sporting codes that are involved and everyone gets buy in an agreement.
“This musical chairs that the RFA play – where one chair is missing – is pissing everyone off.”
Ultimately, any move away from Western Springs could have a huge effect on speedway in New Zealand.“We’ve had [Speedway New Zealand] on the phone this morning. They’re panicking because they’re going to lose their flagship venue. “We have over 120,000 people come through the gates every year. Hampton Downs and the Blues would give their right arm for that.”