Bob McMurray: Moving the speedway just not cricket
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The society of a country or city is built on the shoulders of those that have gone before — it is called heritage or tradition, a legacy if you like.
Lose that and you lose the identity of the city.
Sport is also bound by tradition and heritage with even the world of Formula 1 embracing the “heritage” races, recognising that without that tradition the sport will lose its base of fans the poorer for it.
Few active sporting sites in the world have a heritage dating back to the 1920s — and those that do, are proud to proclaim that fact and make much of it.
American cities have baseball stadiums that stretch that far back in time; Wimbledon tennis stadium, built in 1922, thrives on the heritage of the setting.
International motorsport is no different with the oldest venues celebrating their centenaries.
Yet here we are with a council in Auckland wanting to spend tens of millions to destroy one of the icons of world motorsport.
Western Springs Speedway is famous throughout the motorsport world and has attracted some of the biggest names.
It is a venue for the families of Auckland attend. Only those with no understanding of the heritage, of the Springs as a speedway, would consider suggesting another venue.
No other site in Auckland area can compare. Factor in the cost of making another venue acceptable and the whole suggested project borders on insanity.
Council should be capitalising on the fact Western Springs exists and make it into the icon it deserves.
The arguments to make this jewel in the crown of the city into a cricket stadium are flawed.
When Regional Facilities Auckland (RFA) director of venue development strategy Paul Nisbet says: “RFA believes the sport of speedway and the interests of ratepayers will be better served by bringing speedway together in a single regional facility,”
I shake my head in wonder.
How will the sport of Speedway be better served by moving? And how will ratepayers be better off by spending what some estimates say is close to $100 million, on this move? Did anybody ask those in the sport?
The entertainment and racing is as good now as it has ever been and one of the best family supported evenings out there is.
It cannot be the noise; that is historic, and primarily dealt with.
Perhaps the council does not get enough money from the promoters of the speedway. If so, have more race events, not fewer.
The council says the venue would also be used for community rugby and for concerts and festivals. That is happening now, with the speedway in place.
As in all things to do with bureaucracy and inner city development I think of the phrase in the movie All The President’s Men — “Follow The Money” was the cry.
It does not take Sherlock Holmes to surmise that, once the speedway has been ejected from the Springs and another sporting use has been rejected because of cost, that land will have enormous value to the council for housing.
Among many responsibilities, Jacinda Ardern is Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage. Heritage New Zealand, a Crown entity that advocates for the protection of ancestral sites and heritage buildings in New Zealand is affiliated to that Ministry.
Few, if any, internationally celebrated sporting sites in New Zealand would be as worthy of heritage recognition as an operational motorsport venue as Western Springs Speedway.