Johan Fourie's blog

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Another stadium for Green Point?

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Another White Elephant? Image from futurecapetown.com

The City of Cape Town is building another stadium in Green Point. Next to the iconic Cape Town stadium, a new Green Point athletics stadium is currently under construction, with a capacity to seat 5500 spectators. futurecapetown.com has been critical of the design of the new stadium, but I’d like to take another step back: Why is a new athletics stadium at all necessary? Isn’t there a state-of-the-art athletics stadium in Bellville, which was given a multi-million rand upgrade as recently as 2005? Moreover, this is prime property. Next to the new Cape Town stadium, this land could have been rezoned to accommodate a five-star hotel or A-grade offices. Or why not build a sports tower to accommodate the offices and archives of Western Province Rugby, Ajax Cape Town, and all the other sport federations in the province, offering further incentives for WP Rugby to move from Newlands to the impressive Cape Town stadium? It’s not even that the new athletics stadium is built with a long-term events strategy in mind. As futurecapetown.com points out, the new stadium cannot even be expanded for large events. If Cape Town hopes to host the All Africa Games, or Commonwealth Games, or Olympic Games, the new stadium would be pretty useless.

As I’ve written before, infrastructure like sports stadiums says a lot about the city’s vision for its future. Cape Town stadium positions Cape Town as a world-class city, able to stage a FIFA World Cup and – hopefully – many international rugby and soccer matches (and a concert or two). But would a new athletics stadium of this size not have been more sensible in a densely populated, under-serviced area like Langa or Harare, Khayelitsha? If we would like to nurture South Africa’s next generation of world-class athletes, do you build a 5500-capacity stadium in Green Point, where the opportunity cost of land is excessive, or in Khayelitsha, close to those kids who might dream about being the next Mbulaeni Mulaudzi or Khotso Mokoena? I would think the latter.

Written by Johan Fourie

July 18, 2012 at 08:52

6 Responses

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  1. The Bellville Velodrome precinct is about to undergo a multi-billion Rand redevelopment, so that stadium will likely be out of commission for a good number of years. I would assume that the reason the city chose to build the small athletics stadium in Green Point is because it’s largely a refurbishment of the old Green Point Stadium, which reduces costs in terms of everything from design to construction and the purchase of land (which isn’t even applicable in Green Point). There’s also bulk infrastructure in place to host large events, such as public transport, adequate room for people movement, retail facilities and much more. Whilst it would certainly have been nice for the city to build an Olympic-ready stadium, I personally feel that there is no need to. We’ve signalled no firm intention to bid for the Olympics. The soonest we could even do that is 2024. Even then, we would have to beat out other South African cities before putting in a formal bid. Then if we were to win the right to host the Olympics, who says that Green Point is necessarily the best location for an athletics stadium? I wouldn’t want to see an athletics stadium competing with Cape Town Stadium, for one, in terms of aesthetics and size. But even in terms of technicalities. Were the city supposed to conduct a full feasibility study into that on the off-chance that we may ever host the Olympics there? Our 2004 bid would have seen the stadium built in Wingfield, after all. There’s nothing stopping them from using this small stadium as a venue for another sport if we were to ever host the Olympics, and constructing a functional stadium somewhere else where we don’t need to skimp on design due to budgeting constraints etc. The chances of the land being used for something else are also miniscule. The Green Point Common has heritage value, for one. But the Green Point residents would sure be up in arms about any additional commercial construction on the common. And can you imagine the complaints over yet another massive stadium being built there? To be honest I think we’re complaining about something that’s – for the time being – a non-issue. Let’s be grateful that the city is making the investment at all.

    lydonmcg

    August 2, 2012 at 11:41

    • Hi Lydon. The question is not really whether the City of Cape Town should build an Olympic-size athletics stadium in Green Point – I agree that they shouldn’t – but whether they should build any athletics stadium at all. Why not use the land for hotels, offices, restaurants that will perhaps increase the profitability of the existing stadium (to attract Western Province Rugby, for example)?

      Johan Fourie

      August 2, 2012 at 11:53

      • Hi Johan. Even if the city didn’t opt to refurbish the athletics stadium, that would be very unlikely to happen. The Green Point Common has heritage value, thus any attempt to use the land for anything other than recreational purposes would need to be given the go-ahead not only by the city, but by the Province, Heritage, the general public and more. During the planning phase of Cape Town Stadium, the original agreement that was reached after a lengthy public participation was that no additional “green” land on the Common would be built upon post-World Cup. That decision would need to be overturned. Already the Green Point residents have signalled their intent to oppose the city’s plan to incorporate shops and restaurants onto the actual stadium podium…can you imagine the outcry if they attempted to use the land for commercial purposes? Furthermore, the amount of money the city will make from the sale of the land would only go so far. Cape Town Stadium’s maintenance costs are a recurring charge, and a single lump some of cash will eventually run out. What would happen then? Regarding the stadium’s attractiveness to WP rugby: the current profitability of the stadium is unlikely to be of any concern to WP, considering they would merely be a tenant of the stadium.

        lydonmcg

        August 2, 2012 at 12:07

  2. Agree with you Johan. The same should be done in Durban with Moses Mabhida to get the Sharks to move from Kings Park

    Aashiq Patel

    July 19, 2012 at 14:56

  3. Johan, the caption in your picture says it best: “Another White Elephant?” We already have one white elephant in Green Point. The Cape Town stadium is not iconic, it is a nice stadium on land which is worth far too much for a sport stadium. It is not iconic for other reasons too: (i) it does not symbolize Cape Town (competing as it does with one of the greatest natural icons) and (ii) it is not associated with a great success or some dramatic event. We have to be honest, it is only a great success to host a sport tournament successfully if your expectations have fallen dramatically. Winning a tournament; now that would be different and the stadium where that occurred has some potential to become an icon.

    Stan du Plessis

    July 18, 2012 at 21:06

    • Thanks Stan. Cape Town stadium is sunk cost, and while the land does carry opportunity cost, the stadium also creates positive externalities which are not accounted for in my analysis above. Removing the stadium would reduce the value of the surrounding land, especially if that land is used for hotels, offices, etc. What Cape Town Stadium needs is regular fixtures. The best solution for the city is to sell Cape Town Stadium to Western Province Rugby for R1, which removes the R80 million annual running costs from the City budget. That way, Newlands will be sold for about R300 million which will leave WP with a nice kitty to spend on renovating the stadium to accommodate the groggy suite holders and invest the rest.

      Johan Fourie

      July 19, 2012 at 07:41


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