Central city  |  20 Jul 2021

Christchurch City Councillors will decide at an extraordinary Council meeting on Thursday the design direction for the preliminary design phase for the Canterbury Multi-Use Arena (CMUA).

The recommended direction of the CMUA features a U-shaped concourse and 25,000 seating capacity (36,000 in concert mode), with space for a ‘stage pocket’ at the northern end of the arena.

This design would significantly reduce risk of turf damage from concerts and festivals, have a smaller on-site footprint, and ensures that the project stays within the $473 million budget.

“The world has changed dramatically since the CMUA investment case was prepared and signed off in 2019, and the price of construction materials and international shipping costs have risen astronomically across the board,” says Christchurch City Council Head of Recreation Sport and Events, Nigel Cox.

The recommended design approach will strike a balance between ensuring the CMUA remains affordable to build, without limiting its amenity, Mr Cox says.

Cost verification of an initial concept design of the ‘base case scheme’ – with 30,000 seats, concert staging on the field of play, and a full level 1 concourse – came in $131.4 million over budget. After the value management process had been undertaken, the base case scheme was still $88.8 million over budget.

Mr Cox says these costs were due primarily to the rapidly escalating price of steel and shipping costs worldwide post Covid-19, and the increased scale needed to accommodate additional seating and a level one concourse.

A turf report also concluded that the base case scheme would have significant risks of turf failure and a turf farm would be required. This would cost an additional $1.2m to establish and about $1m annually to maintain.

Council and Venues Ōtautahi officers worked with BESIX Watpac NZ (CMUA) Limited (Kōtui) staff who were awarded the contract for the design and construction of the CMUA to consider options in order to bring the cost of constructing the major anchor project back within budget.

A range of options were assessed against delivery and capital costs, stakeholder expectations, commercial viability, competitive advantage, operational functionality, guest experience and multi-use potential.

Mr Cox says this approach helps minimise or avoid any delays and costs to the project that could potentially only become known when the design is more fully progressed.

“As with all large projects, the CMUA’s pre-contract services agreement phase is designed to help the contractor and Council identify and address any risks relating to cost, timeframes and project scope early on.

“Council and Venues Ōtautahi staff worked closely with representatives of the Kōtui consortium that’s responsible for the design and construction of the CMUA, and found ways to bring the cost of the project down, while still delivering an anchor project that Cantabrians will be proud of.”

Venues Ōtautahi Chief Executive Caroline Harvie-Teare supports the recommended design direction.

“The design delivers on all of the core fundamentals critical to the success of the venue,” she says. “A 25,000 seating capacity and 36,000 large concert capacity ensures the CMUA is a competitive proposition in the national market, and, most importantly, it realises the forecast social, cultural and economic benefits for the city.”

Canterbury Crusaders Chief Executive Colin Mansbridge says the recommended design direction strikes a good balance between amenity, quality and cost-effectiveness.

“Our dream is for the new Multi-Use Arena to be a quality home ground for the Crusaders, and the recommended design direction ticks all the boxes for us,” he says.

If Councillors vote to approve the design direction on Thursday, BESIX Watpac NZ (CMUA) Limited (Kōtui) will work at pace on a preliminary design. Designs will be published once they’re completed.

Read the report on the CMUA design direction.