Speedway could refuse move to Colin Dale Park as Western Springs fight gets ugly
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The gloves are off in the war for Western Springs and it could get bloody.
Speedway announced today that they will fight to stay at the iconic venue – and may now refuse to move to Colin Dale park in South Auckland.
Speedway sent an open letter to Mayor Phil Goff, outlining their intention to stay at Western Springs.
"We are now demanding to remain at Western Springs until a permanent solution can be found," wrote Speedway Promotions Director Bill Buckley.
Buckley warned Goff that he has "a very serious situation on his hands now as it appears you have allowed the RFA to throw the sport out of its home with no alternative in place".
One Speedway supporter said they would do "whatever it takes" to stay at the ground and in his letter Buckley said he was aware of plans in place already for "public meetings and protests".
Speedway's current lease finishes at the end of March, with the Council controlled Regional Facilities Auckland (RFA) intending to transform the ground into a venue for Cricket and occasional AFL matches.
However, Speedway engaged in a memorandum of understanding with the council and RFA last June, which they understood was going to lead to an extension to their current lease while Colin Dale Park in Wiri was transformed into a speedway specific facility.
It's believed that could take between two and three years, and Council have yet to allocate any funding for the upgrade and development of Colin Dale Park into a motorsport arena.
The MOU expired on 23rd November last year. Since then there has been little, if any communication between the RFA and Speedway and the Herald understands there has been a major falling out between the two parties.
The RFA confirmed to the Herald that there was no intention to grant an extension to the lease.
"The RFA board has resolved that it is coming to an end," said Paul Nisbet, RFA director stadium management. "So as far as the RFA's board concerned - no extension post the end of the month. It's been well documented that the venue hire agreement is coming to an end and they have resolved that they won't be entering into any new agreement at Western Springs for any further Speedway activity post the end of March.
"The RFA have already given an extension from 2017 – when we granted a variation and extended it out for another two years – so I think the RFA is feeling that it has acted in good faith and given itself and SPL (Speedway Promotions Limited) enough time to exhaust all the opportunities with regards to possible alternative sites as was required by the RFA's obligations under the venue hire arrangement."
However, Nisbet couldn't elaborate on possible options for Speedway in the 2019/2020 season.
"The only ones that can answer that are Council and they are currently looking at options with regards to alternative venues and any possibilities between now and the possibility of Colin Dale park being ready. "
Speedway has been based at Western Spring for more than 90 years, but their existence there has been in doubt since the RFA's initial stadium strategy in 2012.
That called for Speedway to move to Mt Smart, but that idea fell through in 2016 when the Warriors successfully fought to stay at the Penrose venue.
The RFA and Speedway then canvassed other options, in the north and south, before apparently settling on Wiri's Colin Dale park.
Speedway's last scheduled meeting this season is March 16.
An Auckland Council spokesman said the next steps around speedway would be considered by Auckland Council's Finance and Performance Committee in April.
"At the Finance and Performance meeting in November, councillors discussed that they would only be willing to proceed with the plans to move speedway to Colin Dale Park if there was complete transparency.
"This included the provision of an Expressions of Interest process to ensure all promoters were given the opportunity to run speedway events in Auckland. Proceeding with this Expressions of Interest process will be discussed by councillors at the meeting in April. Until the results of that meeting, we can't comment further."
A Change.org petition for Speedway to remain at Western Springs was started late yesterday, and has since attracted over 4000 signatures. It can be viewed by clicking here.
- NZ Herald