It has been a while since Wellington had a decent local debate to liven things, but the proposed Basin flyover is just that.
Once more it appears a bit-part solution is being thrown at an issue that requires a longer term direction. In all likelihood, it is set to move a traffic bottleneck about 200 metres to the East.
However, this is a sports blog so this seems as good a place as any to look into what impact the proposal will have on the ground itself. After all, the campaign against is called Save the Basin.
After a few false starts, the compromise has been reached. The flyover will pass the north-east side of the ground, and a new stand will be built, joining the RA Vance stand with the north end of the bank. The stand will be four stories high, and is being paid for by the NZ Transport Agency.
It is not often central government, in whatever form, offers to come along and invest in a sporting venue. Well not outside Auckland and Christchurch anyway.
The stand will replace a pretty scrappy and disjointed part of the ground. It will replace the Victorian Public Toilets style CS Dempster gate (while hopefully retaining the name), a bit of concrete and some coffee outlets.
The main feature will be much needed improved changing rooms for the players. International cricket was a different game altogether when the RA Vance stand was commissioned in the 1970s. In those days you just needed a changing room for the players. When England toured here earlier in the year there was a travelling entourage of upwards of 30 people. The players, the coaches, a few medical staff, a nutritionist, the guy in charge of sourcing comedy beards, and people who sit on their laptop all day analysing stuff.
This proof that conditions evolve and grounds need to evolve with them. The ICC keeps raising the bar on playing conditions, which is why outdoor practice nets were built at the ground recently. The Basin is in a real need for a lick of paint.
This is also a good chance to sort out its internet access as well, which is currently one minor power surge away from becoming an international embarrassment.
And while they’re about it, and with all the workmen about, this would be the obvious time to sort out the roof on the Museum Stand which is apparently an earthquake risk these days. Too historic to demolish, too pricey to do anything about it.
The official reason for the new stand getting built is so that it will act as a barricade to the noise and fumes coming from the fly-over. But it will block something else. The wind.
Even the noise concerns seem to be a bit strange. That’s the whole point of the Basin Reserve. Watching cricket with distant surround sound of ambulances circling is one of the many charms of the ground.
With the inaction in Auckland and higher priorities the Basin remains New Zealand’s leading test ground by some distance. Its unique location means it will always face unusual challenges. Putting aside the transport issues, in a selfish way this flyover will be good for the ground.