New Zealand Cricket wants Western Springs to become the home for the sport in Auckland.
Regional Facilities Auckland has proposed the stadium be developed into a world-class cricket ground, once it's phased out as a motorsport venue next summer.
In its submission to the Auckland Council, New Zealand Cricket said Auckland is currently missing out on international cricket exposure, primarily due to the lack of a cost-effective, financially-viable venue.
Concerns were also raised that the current economic benefits top-level cricket could bring to Auckland were considerably lower than what they should be.
NZC said developing a fit-for-purpose and multi-use cricket venue was essential for bringing more tests, one-day internationals, and Twenty20 internationals to Auckland, as well as upcoming tournaments of significance such as the women's World Cup.
In a March 27 submission to the 2018-2028 Auckland Council long-term plan, NZC chief executive David White wrote:
"Eden Park – the only ICC-sanctioned arena in New Zealand's most populous city, is unaffordable for all but the biggest and, by definition, the rarest of international cricket fixtures.
"Additionally, Eden Park's small size and rectangular, football-shaped playing field continually risks compromising the integrity of cricket matches hosted there.
"Resource consent restrictions and a lack of fan-friendly, cricket-specific features at the arena limits NZC's ability to schedule a greater number of games in the city."
Auckland has hosted three test matches since 2006.
"We'll certainly be seeing some cricket at Eden Park of course, but in terms of test match cricket, hosting is a challenge. [There's] No doubt about that from a financial perspective," White told Radio Sport.
White said a new ground at Western Springs makes a lot of sense, as a proposed waterfront stadium would not suit cricket.
"If that goes ahead, cricket wouldn't be involved because it's rectangular. Therefore we really support the Western Springs project. We like the concept. It's on a green belt with a natural amphitheatre 20,000-seat stadium and grass banking and a cricket-centric surrounding which our fans really enjoy."
White said the ground might have a lower capacity than Eden Park, but the net costs of staging games there would be lower and that would make it more beneficial.
NZC also proposed moving to Western Springs.
"This facility has the potential to become the country's leading international cricket venue, as well as possibly accommodating NZC as a long-term tenant, and becoming a high-performance base for servicing professional men's and women's players.
"With NZC headquarters already located in Auckland, and the North Island lacking a dedicated, elite cricket training venue, the value of the latter point cannot be underestimated."
The submission supported flexibility at the venue, with the likes of a drop-in pitch, so it could also host non-cricketing events and activities.
"Genuine cricket grounds, by dint of their grass fields and terraces, have long proved ideal spaces to complement other modes of entertainment, adding to the financial well-being of a venue," the submission surmised.
The question over where to play cricket in Auckland has plagued the city's sporting landscape for years.
NZC were committed to Eden Park last summer, because the ground was deemed the best option to host the country's inaugural day-night test - against England.
On the other hand, Mt Maunganui's Bay Oval has shown it is capable of meeting the day-night brief. Eden Park also remains the best venue to cater for big crowds, such as the 35,000 fans attending the Australia-New Zealand T20 pool match in February.
Debate has raged over the ground's small size, as referenced by White, with critics saying it detracts from the spectacle.
Eden Park remains International Cricket Council-compliant because of a grandfather clause [it was an established ground before the latest regulations on minimum ground size].
The NZC and RFA positions suggest a shift from what has been Auckland's cricket home since the New Zealand-England test in February 1930.
However, funding the new stadium and finding speedway an alternative home after a legacy of 90 years will remain a sticking point.
Auckland Cricket would also prefer to stick with the status quo. As an original owner of the Eden Park site, they are offered guarantees with their existing deal. Those include an annuity of approximately $330,000 under the Eden Park Trust Amendment Act 2009. That is further supplemented by cost savings on office space - as tenants at the ground - carparks, and the maintenance and use of the indoor facility.
Auckland, via Eden Park, has been used as a test venue three times in the past 12 years for matches against England in 2013 and 2018, and India in 2014.
Purpose-built cricket grounds such as Hamilton's Seddon Park, Wellington's Basin Reserve, Christchurch's Hagley Oval and Dunedin's University Oval have been preferred for the game's longest form.
This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission.