How much should the Waitaki District Council contribute to a new indoor sports and events centre in Oamaru?

That is one of the questions being put to Waitaki residents in the council’s long-term plan 2021-2031 consultation document, which is open for feedback until May 21.

For many years, the community and the council have debated the merits of building a new indoor sports and events centre in Oamaru. Calls from the community have become louder in recent years as the two-court Waitaki Community Recreation Centre no longer meets modern-day sporting requirements.

The projected cost of a new six-court indoor sports and events centre in Oamaru is $24million. It would also include conference facilities, a creche, catering kitchen, cafe and bar facilities, a gym, storage space and spectator areas.

The council is seeking feedback on how much its contribution should be. The four options are: no more than $10 million, no more than $12 million, no more than $14 million, or nothing.

The council is livestreaming Q&A sessions on some of the key projects outlined in its long-term plan, such as the Covid-19 recovery, climate change and waste management.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher, recreation manager Erik van der Spek, who is overseeing the project for the council, and advisory group member Deidre Senior fronted the recent livestream on the indoor sports and events centre proposal.

Mrs Senior, principal of Weston School and North Otago netball stalwart, said a new facility should be multipurpose and help instil community pride.

The project was about more than just sport – it was an ”opportunity to showcase the Waitaki”, she said.

“So, if we’ve got visiting teams coming to tournaments, or people coming to trade shows, they’re getting an insight into what Oamaru and the wider Waitaki can offer.

“It’s also providing facilities that people considering living in our area can actually see what we have. It’s a real community facility that we’re looking at, not just a sports facility.”

A new sports and events centre could also attract high-quality sport to Oamaru.

“How great it would be to have a Nuggets warm-up game, or a Steel warm-up game, here in Oamaru,” Mrs Senior said.

The recreation centre had served its purpose for “quite a period of time”, but the district struggled to attract sport tournaments and large events because it was not big enough and did not have regulation size courts, Mr van der Spek said.

Many local club competitions, such as netball, had to be played outdoors at present.

“Which is a problem for them as far as having cold, slippery, wet courts over winter – and they often experience many cancelled games,” Mr van der Spek said.

Mr Kircher said there had been a lot of discussion in the community about a stadium, over several years, and it was time to “get on with this”.

The council believed it should cap the ratepayer’s contribution at $10 million, as it was expected that philanthropic trusts and other funding sources would provide up to $14 million.

“We’re fairly confident we will get some reasonable amounts of money coming in from the community,” Mr Kircher said.

“Hopefully, with some really good fundraising, council’s contribution could be less than the amounts set out. At the moment, we want to be conservative, we want to make sure we allow for a bit less coming in from other sources.”

There was the option of the council not contributing any funding, but “for the community’s benefit” Mr Kircher hoped that was not the preferred option of many.

In 2017, the council commissioned a feasibility study that outlined options for a new facility, looking at 28 different sites. Locations were still being discussed, but the preferred option was Centennial Park.

More details would be included in a business case due to be completed by June.