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A Waitaki Event Centre future-proofed for the entire community.

That is what North Otago Rugby Union chief executive Colin Jackson is calling for, as a proposal for the centre to be built at Centennial Park goes through public consultation.

Jackson wants the 55-year-old, 2000-seat grandstand at Whitestone Contracting Stadium to be torn down and a smaller 500-seat grandstand built on to the new event centre.

The proposed $24 million event centre was “wonderful”, and the union was “110%” behind it being built at Centennial Park, he said.

However, the existing grandstand was tired, seating of that capacity was no longer required and nobody wanted to be looking at the “backside of an ugly grandstand” from the new facility, Jackson said.

The union wanted to move the rugby field 20m towards the embankment, allowing the new centre to over look the rugby ground. It would leave more room at the back of the proposed site to build future additions to the event centre, and also help make the rugby ground more “intimate”, he said.

The union planned to install lights at Whitestone Contracting Stadium – ”sooner rather than later” – and move junior rugby to Friday evenings.

Removing the grandstand would allow family members to sit behind windows in the event centre, watching their children play on the main ground. It also allowed children the opportunity to properly use Centennial Park, as it became a sporting hub, he said.

“I think it would be great for kids to play rugby on a Friday night and play another sport on a Saturday.”

Jackson said the union understood “everything comes at a cost” and once final plans were produced, he looked forward to having “meaningful discussions” with the Waitaki District Council and the Waitaki Event Centre Trust on an outcome benefiting all users.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said although the grandstand was not part of the event centre project, the council and the rugby union were in discussions about opportunities for upgrading or replacing it.

The new centre’s aim was to cater for as many sports and events possible, but within the agreed budget and timeframe.

The union’s proposal would be a “multimillion-dollar project”, Kircher said.

“That may mean it falls outside what is affordable for the rugby union and the wider public,” he said.

“That has not been identified yet, though demolition and the additional construction involved would be costly.

“That needs to be weighed up against the cost of upgrading the existing building.”

Mr Kircher said the council, and “by default” ratepayers, had supported rugby significantly through the years and would continue to do so.

“The new facility will be as multi-use as possible and meet gaps in current sporting needs.

“It is an opportunity to ensure other community activities and sports are better catered for, so the focus is on getting a quality facility which serves the community well, and is as future-proofed as possible.”

Waitaki Event Centre Trust trustee Kevin Malcolm said the trust was committed to delivering a quality event centre for the whole community.

“Rugby appears to have a reasonably sound idea, and we would be happy for them to give us a call and discuss the possibilities,” Malcolm said.