Ericsson Stadium Is Now Warriors

An emergency meeting of the Auckland Regional Council (ARC) yesterday decided to raise a loan for a $23 million upgrade of Ericsson Stadium, home of the New Zealand Warriors rugby league team.

The money will be spent on a new stand, training facilities and offices for the rugby league club.

Under a deal expected to be signed shortly, the Warriors will keep Ericsson Stadium as their base for 15 years.

Parks committee chairman Bill Burrill said the council had agreed to borrow up to $21 million, but there would be no impact on rates because the cashflow from the new seats, hospitality facilities and corporate boxes would pay the loan over the 15 years.

The Warriors management will move from their leased offices and training facilities near the ground and pay a commercial lease for a new headquarters under the new stand.

Mr Burrill said the reason for the emergency meeting was that time had run out. The council had to commit itself to construction if it wanted seats ready for next year's National Rugby League competition.

The public was excluded but the resolutions were made public.

The council agreed to spend $23.619 million to build the new stand - a 6 per cent increase on the amount previously considered - and to borrow up to $21 million to do it, subject to the signing of the 15-year deal with the Warriors.

Full details will not be announced until the deal is done but Warriors chief executive Mick Watson had no doubts last night.

"Mate, it's all going to go ahead. We're very excited about being in a partnership at Ericsson Stadium, very, very happy with the ARC's decision," Watson told League Correspondent.

"Once we get everything locked down in the next few days, we'll come out and celebrate."

The move has dashed plans by Auckland and New Zealand Rugby Leagues for the "rebirth" of Carlaw Park in the central city, a $100 million project that depended on the Warriors switching grounds.

Regional councillor Mike Lee criticised his colleagues for their refusal to even meet rugby league officials to discuss their proposal.

Under the Ericsson deal, the club will get a percentage of all seat and corporate sales associated with the new stand and a say in marketing extra events.

Mr Burrill would not discuss the figures "until the ink's dry". He said the percentage was "an incentive to them to maximise the value of the facility" and ensure the council's loan was repaid.

Auckland Rugby League chairman Cameron McGregor said he felt disappointed for Auckland and its sports followers and players.