Sharks to give way to tennis?

2008-11-21 00:00

Durban’s Absa Stadium, currently home to the Sharks, could be transformed into a world class tennis stadium just as soon as the rugby side decides to move across to the Moses Mabhida stadium next door.

The Absa Stadium, formerly King’s Park, is currently at the centre of a heated political debate over whether rugby unions should control sports stadiums. There have also been allegations that the eThekwini Municipality, which owns the property, has tried to bully the Natal Rugby Union into relocating to the R1,6 billion stadium currently being built for the 2010 World Cup.

However, Julie-May Ellingson, head of strategic projects at the eThekwini Municipality, said they will not dictate to the Sharks. Negotiations have been under way for some time and the municipality will engage with the rugby union again next week when it will provide information requested by the union.

Ellingson and municipal manager Mike Sutcliffe have championed a “2010 and beyond” strategy that would not only ensure that the mega-stadium does not become a white elephant, but will position Durban as a sporting location of choice.

The city’s post World Cup sporting ambitions include a possible bid for the Commonwealth Games and a bid for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.

Ellingson said it is important to have a range of sporting facilities within the sporting precinct that will surround the Moses Mabhida Stadium. The stadium itself is expected to host soccer, rugby and athletics. She said the city realises it will have to systematically upgrade existing facilities to world standards if it is to stand any chance of hosting such events.

She said the only certainty is that the Absa Stadium will not be part of the future sports precinct in its current form. Choices include a downgrade into a tennis stadium or complete demolition. She said the city’s sports academy could then be located on the central site. This would be a phased development.

She said the site on which the Absa Stadium currently stands will only be used for sports-related development.

Ellingson said the creation of a tennis stadium would necessitate a complex and expensive demolition of the upper stands and the creation of two centre courts. The demolition could take six to eight months, followed by a further three to four months to create the centre courts.

However, at this point no technical work has been done on the project as the eThekwini Municipality will not invest in the process until a decision has been made by the rugby union.

Sharks chief executive Brian van Zyl could not be reached for comment.

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