Wrecking ball set to swing at Basin

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Spectators spread out below the popular Basin Reserve cricket museum while the near century-old stand above sits empty. Photo / Photosport

By David Leggat

The old Museum Stand at the Basin Reserve is facing demolition. It has been a blight on the country's most popular test cricket venue ever since it was rated earthquake-prone.

Since 2012, it has been closed to spectators, gathering dust.

The popular cricket museum sits beneath the stand.

Strengthening the stand, which opened on New Year's Day 1925 and once housed the players' changing rooms and lunch facilities, could cost up to $8 million. Knocking it down and replacing it is believed to be doable for about $800,000, which should make the decision a no-brainer in financial, as well as aesthetic, terms.

The Wellington City Council intends to make its plans public by August, but mayor Justin Lester has made his view clear.

"It's going to be a very expensive option to have it strengthened and restored and I'm not sure that can be achieved," Lester said recently.

There are other forces at work, though, notably the Save the Basin Campaign, which has mounted a determined effort to save the stand.

Continued below.

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The council, Cricket Wellington and the Basin Reserve Trust are keen to finish off a $21 million plan to upgrade the ground, which is sorely in need of improvement. The grass bank which runs around the eastern side of the ground is a picture when full on a summer afternoon. But elsewhere it's a visual hodge-podge, tired and sorely in need of a serious clean-up, and that includes the one functioning stand, the RA Vance stand at the north end of the ground.

During a solid tremor just before the test against Bangladesh in January, that stand shook alarmingly enough for seasoned Wellingtonians, well attuned to high winds buffeting the ground, to rush for the press box door at the top of the stand.

Wellington missed out on a marquee test against England next summer. With Christchurch's Hagley Oval being highly rated by both players and spectators, Hamilton's Seddon Park a perennial favourite, Dunedin's University Oval having money poured into it to make it a regular contender and Eden Park on call for the big occasions, such as England's visit early next year, the onus is on the Basin to lift its game.

The closure of the Museum Stand, which subbed in for a South African grandstand in the movie Tangiwai - a Love Story, cut out about 1000 seats. The master plan calls for its demolition and creating a new grassed bank.

Basin Reserve Trust board member Simon Woolf, also a city councillor, said: "It might look pleasing, but it's my personal opinion that the stand is not fit for purpose. The ground needs to increase its capacity and that's a priority."

Lester said decisions on the stand's future were being made now, and a plan with options was set to go out for public consultation in August.

Cricket Wellington acting chief executive and Basin Reserve manager Bryan Dickinson said the main focus was keeping the ground relevant for the future, and it boiled down to capacity, which was down to about 6000 at present. "We can't be enormous, but we feel the ground needs to have a permanent capacity of at least 10,000 to be able to compete [with other grounds for fixtures]."

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