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Cape stadium 'musn't be flattened'

Dec 01 2010 21:25 Sapa

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Cape Town - There should be "no thought" of demolishing the R4.4bn Cape Town stadium, the chief executive of the stadium's former operating company said on Wednesday.

"There shouldn't be thought about breaking down the stadium," Morné du Plessis, who heads up Sail Stadefrance Operating Company, told the Cape Town Press Club.

"The stadium is a huge commercial asset. This stadium is a brilliant facility and an asset to the city and South Africa.

"The costs are significant, but the opportunities are also significant."

Du Plessis said in October that Sail Stadefrance would not renew a 30-year lease to manage the property after running into "severe operating constraints".

"We made a projection over five years and it certainly was not an astronomical amount. But it was money our shareholders did not have the reserves to carry."

Du Plessis said Sail had given the city a business plan, with business programmes, concessionaires, naming and advertising rights when it handed over the stadium.

"The stadium has great potential to generate revenue to off-set costs," Du Plessis said.

"While the costs are significant in our terms, we do not think (they are) unmanageable for City of Cape Town."

Du Plessis said he could not discuss the stadium's operating cost due to a confidentiality agreement with the city.

In a briefing to Parliament earlier this year however, director of the city's 2010 operations Lesley De Reuck said the current operational and maintenance costs, including management of the adjacent Green Point Park, were around R46.5m a year.

Rugby not negotiating

Company Ross Demolition said it was prepared to demolish the stadium for between R10m and R15m. Some architects in the city had also been calling for the stadium to be torn down.

Du Plessis said Sail had underestimated the resolve of Western Province Rugby to stay at its current home at Newlands, instead of moving to Cape Town Stadium. This had been a major constraint, he said.

"Rugby is drawing the line in the sand in terms of not wanting to negotiate at all," he said.

"But even if they were willing into enter negotiations, we could not withstand that timeline."

Even if Western Province Rugby decided to negotiate "tomorrow", the public participation process could take up to three years.

Rugby, he said, had been put off by the lack of hospitality suits at the new stadium. The European designers had neglected to take the local culture of each company having its own suite into account, and had opted for a more open plan design instead.

"Rugby is reliant on revenue from suites, so we would have to replace those," he said.

What rugby could do, he said, "is decide that certain matches could be played in the interim period".

"Ironically, our departure could speed up and facilitate possible discussions with Western Province Rugby," Du Plessis said.

Iconic structure


Other constraints faced by Sail were the inability of soccer clubs to afford playing at stadium, and the "throttling commercial restrictions" around operating the venue.

The 2 000 parking bays were also taking away an opportunity to build a fitness centre and hospital.

"There is no space because we have to have parking. At the moment you are not allowed to sell a cup of tea in the stadium outside of events. This has to change."

The stadium operator was also having to operate Green Point Park.

"With the successful eradication of major constraints, that we now know exist, this could result in a sustainable business or at least limit the cost to the city and ratepayers.

"If we want to keep this iconic structure... We have to make this work."

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