Thursday, September 3, 2009

Build This

Construction has started in my hometown of Dunedin, NZ. Under the catchy, if illogical, slogan of “just build it!” the Dunedin City Council (DCC) is using $85 million of money borrowed against the whole city’s credit to build a 30,000-person-capacity stadium with a retractable roof.

To put this in perspective, Dunedin is a city of not much over 100,000. What’s more, it already has a stadium that serves its purpose reasonably well. I’m all for thinking positively, but to assume that fully one half of the city will be in attendance at sports events is just a bit heavy on the optimism and light on the rationality.

But there’s been more than enough vitriole on both sides of this debate for years now, so I’m going to refrain. Rather, I think it’s time someone examined something that hasn’t been examined yet – the truly awesome other things Dunedin could do with that kind of money.

The Pool
Dunedin has a pretty nifty pool. It has a kids’ river, a wave ppool, a lap pool, two diving pools, and, the piece de resistance, the hydroslide. This is all nice, but in the spirit of the Awatere Stadium, we can do better.
Why do we have just one wave pool? We should have at least three, all with different levels of intensity. Actually, what we should really spring for is a Flowrider - a machine that makes a single, perpetual wave for surfing. Dunedin has a massive surfing subculture but it’s so cold that I fear that some people are missing out due to excessive sanity. Imagine how much more accessible this pastime would be if we changed it from an outdoor one to an indoor one!

These are fine ideas, but what I’d really like to do is throw the entire amount at the hydroslide. After all, this is the most visible part of the pool, the most prevalent symbol of the DCC's generosity, so we should make it better, stronger, and, most importantly, visible from further away.

I’m no slide engineer, but I feel like you could do a lot with the kind of money that’s being spent on the stadium. I’m thinking of something that starts ten blocks away, with an elevator to get to the top. To get there, you could either park in the enormous structure I plan to build, or simply float along the underground river (with breathing room and lights) that meanders from the slide’s exit to its entrance. I’m pretty sure you could do this for $85 million, and I would be a little more enthusiastic in my support than I am for the current use of the same amount.

Make Hills Less of a Problem
Dunedin is set up in such a way that the haves literally look down on the have-nots, with the ritzier neighbourhoods sitting on top of the ironically named Maori Hill. This is a big drag when you’re a teenager or adult who lives at home without a car (although by the time I became the latter I had upgraded to a bicycle, which didn’t help my hill troubles at all).

I want the next generation of upper-crust teenagers to be able to avoid this horror. Let’s bring back the cable car. Or, better yet, a moving sidewalk. Better than both: level the damn hill. All that dynamite and zoning would be expensive, but when you’ve got $85 million to kill the world’s your oyster.

M-16s for Everyone
Because you never know when you’re going to have to fight the power.

Dance Lessons for Everyone
Because there’s more than one way to fight the power.

The Final Frontier
I have a confession to make. When I started writing this, my mind was already made up. There’s no question as to what I think my $85 million should be spent on, and once you read this inspiration neither will there be in yours.

A space program. Dunedin’s own.

Now, I know this is revolutionary and controversial but the best ideas are. Who says space programs are strictly the purview of national governments? Just because it’s always been that way doesn’t mean it always has to be that way. Let’s get a municipal spaceship.

The positive effects are innumerable. First of all, it’ll bring in all kinds of high-end jobs. For the first time ever, pokey little Dunedin will be the destination of choice for robotics engineers, high-tech designers, and, of course, rocket scientists. Also, the image is spectacular – a space shuttle, painted in Otago blue and gold, hurtling at thousands of miles per hour to infinity and beyond.

Of course, space programs cost more than $85 million but then so do huge-capacity stadiums with retractable roofs. So, just like with the stadium, I’ll get outside, private investors involved – there’s a real market for space tourism for millionaires, and I don’t know how they feel but I, for one, would rather my interstellar flight took off from lush New Zealand than the desolate wasteland that is the Russian Federation.

But I’m not the final authority on such things (like I am on medicine, beauty, biking, movies, and literature). So please, utilize my comments section. Tell me what you’d like to see $85 million of what is (at least partly) your money spent on.

And don't be shy - it's okay if your idea only benefits a select group of special interests.


  1. Mike R said....
    Sam for Mayor!

  2. The stadium is 30,000 not 50,000, and it does not have a retractible roof, but a fixed roof.

    It is also only costing $95 million of Dunedin City Council Money, and around $30 million of Otago Regional Council money. The rest is coming from a number of other sources including private sector (45 million) and various trusts.

    New Zealand culture is heavily based around sports, particularly rugby. Dunedin already spends millions on arts, such as museums, galleries, theatres... Why not a sports stadium? It also rains a lot in Dunedin so any new stadium should have a roof.

  3. Dunedin is a city of 120,000. The stadium is billed as the Otago Stadium, and the region has a population of 250,000. It is also the home stadium, as you will know, of the Highlanders, which has a catchment area of 350,000.

  4. My mistake, anonymous. I'll clear up those facts now.

    My point remains the same, however. Dunedin needs certain other things that should take precedence over a stadium. For example, when you flush your toilet, your faeces goes into the ocean. Call me idealistic, but I think that a treatment plant that involves more than a pipe is in order before we start throwing money at a stadium.

  5. So, what you are saying is, it would be better to spend the money on things that are for