The very beginnings of the Arena’s position on Central Park Drive can be traced right back to early days of the Athletic Club that is now housed in the lower level of The Trusts Arena building. Waitemata Athletics Club (now known as Waitakere City Athletics Club) was
founded in 1953 at a public meeting called by Mr George Searle. Initially the club held athletic meetings at Smythe Park in Henderson but in the mid-50s it purchased and occupied orchard land in Ratanui Road, Henderson.
During the late 1970s and early 80s there was rising pressure to sell its land and relocate as the commercial area in Henderson was developing in and around Ratanui Road. An initial offer from Henderson Borough Council to buy the land was rejected. However the Club accepted in 1983 an offer of circa $700,000 from a developer, Brian Tracy for their land in Ratanui Road.
The Athletic Club concurrently had negotiated with newly formed Waitemata City Council through Mayor McHardy for a ground to be developed at the present site in Central Park Dr
which had previously been an orchard (Kings Orchards) and was unused at the time “Central Park” as the land became known was constructed by Cameron and Ireland contractors and the first payment of $70,000 was paid by Waitemata Athletics Club as a sign of good will – that sum was repaid by Council to the club at the end of the Council’s financial year.
Cameron and Ireland completed a grass athletic track construction based on the Mount Smart Stadium specifications at the time.
During the mid 80s a Prison Employment Project Scheme completed the concrete terraces. The small administration building known as the “dolls house” was erected (a small piece of those terraces can still be seen from the Northern end of the present Trusts Stadium Grandstand and the “Dolls House” now sits on the Southern End of the Douglas Track and Field).
Council and Waitakere City Athletic Club entered a ground lease arrangement to secure use of the grounds for the Club’s activities during the summer months In 1984 the Waitakere City Athletic Club fundraised and built a club sports complex comprising of a 60m indoor track, health and fitness gym and lounge for club activities and community hire – this became known as “Waitakere Stadium”.
The ground suffered some design, drainage and turf problems the club faced some financial issues exacerbated by the lack of good grounds and having to seek alternative grounds for 3 years during the early 1980’s. The Club surrendered its lease on the Outdoor Stadium land in 1986 in favour of a $100,000 payment from Council and a Licence to Occupy the Outdoor Stadium for the summer months. The Term of the Licence ran through to 31 August 2047. The Licence provided for Council maintenance and turf management of the outdoor track and field and ensured Athletics had security over priority ground use during the summer months. Alongside the Licence to Occupy the club also had a 32 year lease (plus renewal provisions) from Council for the land on which the Club’s building was constructed.
The Te Atatu Rugby Football Club started negotiations in 1994 to go to the Stadium grounds, with a proposal to amalgamate clubrooms with the Athletic Club. Te Atatu Rugby
Football Club had for many years used 3 Council owned fields on Te Atatu South Park for their regular season competition across all grades. The Club also owned an acre of adjacent land at Te Atatu South Park on which it had built clubrooms. The club sold this land for $925,000 plus GST on 4 June 2004. By the mid-90s the clubs premier rugby in the winter months was played at the Stadium.
Between 1994 and 1998 the land (now know as Fields 2 and 3) were purchased by Council. In 1994 the Athletic Club changed its name from Waitemata Athletic Club to Waitakere City Athletic Club to identify itself in the recently formed Waitakere City.
During the late 1980s and into the 90s discussions took place regarding building a new sporting complex, demolishing of the existing athletic club structure, and further development of the athletic track surface. A potential partnership with Waitemata City Athletic Club, Waitemata Rugby Club and Te Atatu Rugby Club and creation of a new mutli-use multisport complex on the site was proposed.
Waitemata Rugby Club withdrew from these early negotiations and in June 1998 it was agreed that negotiations continue without Waitemata between Te Atatu Rugby Football Club and Waitakere City Athletic Club. The Waitakere City Athletics Club and Te Atatu Rugby Club came together with a sports complex concept comprising a barn like structure on the site of the present carpark with two playing fields and an athletic track. In 1999 Te Atatu Football changed name to Waitakere City RFC to reflect the name of the new Waitakere City. The initial site of the all weather track was to be alongside Central Park Drive and the building between that track and the existing Waitemata Athletic Club building that overlooked the track and field (now known as the upper carpark)
The Project was to be managed by the Waitakere Regional Sports Trust and the initial agreements with Council who were the envisaged key funding partner were for a $12million development. That project cost did not include an all weather athletic track or any development or extension of the present No 1 ground. Waitakere Regional Sports Trust formed a Development Board to oversee the project. The project at that stage was in the hands of the then CEO of the Waitakere Regional Sports Trust, Mark Iverson and Nevin Barbour (who was to act with Iverson as the project manager and builder for the new project).
The Regional Sports Trust then approached its Chairman Ross Dallow to take over Chairmanship of the project Development Board Ross Dalllow went back to the Trust Board and Development Board undertaking to act as their Chairman on the understanding that all arrangements on the project were put aside pending a total review of the project. The $12M project at that time was considered as a creation of a sports field (where current carpark is), all weather athletic track and building a sports complex (4 recreational use courts and a sports house for the administration of the Sports Trust, squash courts and a lounge for club members).
This building would sit alongside the existing Athletic Club building. Waitakere City Council agreed to support 50% of the projects cost (then estimated at $6million). The Waitakere City Athletic Club’s building at that time was built in the highest piece of land on the block and had a view of the main field (presently known as Douglas Field). It was considered that the project should not go ahead until the project had negotiated with Waitakere City Athletic Club and the Rugby Club to have the Athletic building demolished and include both clubs in a new complex. Progress was slow and little happened for some 6 months until the Athletic and Rugby clubs after much debate decided to then come on board, seeking some compensation of loss of the Athletic Club building and leasing rights they held for the grass track and main field. Compensation came in the form of a $1 million settlement and the Council agreeing to finance the building of an all weather athletic track (now known as the Douglas Track)
In 2002 all financial and other development arrangements at that stage were halted and the Development Board and key parties (Council, Architects Warren and Mahoney and others) adjourned to Taupo for a weekend to discuss what an ideal events and sports complex for Waitakere City would contain. At this meeting the rough outline for design and scope of the present Stadium building was established and included the addition of much needed conference facilities for Auckland western suburbs, a vastly extended arena space (additional 2 courts and 5000 seats) and an iconic design with the ability to host a wide range of sporting, community and event interests.
A key document “The Charter” was signed in 2002 between Waitakere City Council, The Stadium Trust and the Athletic and Rugby Trust (representing the two clubs) to document the roles and rights of the various parties and which provided access to fields (2 and 3) and the track and the licence for use of indoor track for Rugby and Athletic club use. Fundraising began and the ASB Charitable Trust ($3million), the Hillary Commission’s Community Sport Fund and the New Zealand Lotteries Grants Board were some of the first major funders to commit to the project. At that stage Dr Alan Reay of Christchurch had been appointed as the Principal Engineer. In 2002 the Regional Sports Trust CEO Mark Iverson resigned to pursue personal business interests and Tu Nualiatia replaced him.
The Waitakere City Athletic Club and the Te Atatu Rugby Club agreed as part of the building of the new complex they would occupy the lower level of The Trusts Stadium overlooking the Douglas Track and Field. The Waitakere City Rugby Club and Waitakere City Athletic Club formed a Trust (Waitakere City Rugby and Athletic Trust) to fundraise for development of the clubrooms and then took leases with the Stadium Trust for occupation in The Trusts Stadium main building. This maintained a governance model that saw the Trust manage and govern the shared facilities and assets whilst maintain that independent clubs identity and historyThe Athletics Club was demolished and works began in the development of the new building. The Governing Body of the new complex was to be the Waitakere Regional Sports Trust through its Development Board which comprised representatives of existing Trustees and members with interests in Basketball, Netball, Athletics and Rugby. It was envisaged that the original development Board would lead the construction of the building with the Principal engineer being Dr Alan Reay and local firm Canam Construction as the lead construction company.
Construction started in February 2003 and the Stadium’s Arena was opened on the 11th of September 2004. Late 2003 the Development Board appointed Gary Calvert as the CEO in a joint role managing the Regional Sports Trust and Stadium Complex. In the initial period he was to focus on Sports Trust and would assist with fit-out and other matters leading to the opening of the Stadium. Late in 2004 there was a complete review of the membership of the Development Board with 3 of the members who represented sporting interests dropping off and being replaced by three new appointments to a Board envisaged to govern the operation of The Trusts Stadium.
Gary Calvert resigned as Regional Sports Trust Chief Executive in July 2004. At this time the decision was made to split the operations of the Waitakere Regional Sports Trust to focus on two key areas of the trusts activities, management of the Stadium and management of the historical Trusts role and business, Sport Waitakere. Lynette Adams was appointed Chief Executive of Sport Waitakere and the Chairman of the Regional Sports Trust and Development Board Ross Dallow, sttod in as interim Stadium CEO while a full-time Stadium Chief Executive was sought. Simon Wickham commenced soon after opening in early 2005 as the Stadium’s first Chief Executive. Later that year a governance review was undertaken by Boardworks International and recommended a revision of the governance of the Trust so that the governance reflected the management of the two areas of business (Sport Waitakere operation and The Trusts Stadium operation).
The Board of the Waitakere Regional Sports Trust agreed to formally separate the governance, business and assets of Trust to the seperate trading entities, The Trusts Stadium and Sport Waitakere. The Waitakere City Stadium Trust was formed and the Sport Waitakere Trust was formed. Whilst Sport Waitakere played no further role in the governance, management or other activities of the Waitakere City Stadium Trust it was agreed based on a capital and personnel contribution Sport Waitakere had previously made to the project that they continue to occupy offices in the main Stadium building on a 10 year lease arrangement.
In 2006 the Waitakere City Stadium Trust began discussions with Council and the Portage and Waitakere Licensing Trusts to establish interest and support for the next phase of the Stadium Trusts development plan, a covered grandstand to create a unique boutique sized Stadium. The Waitakere City Stadium Trust fundraised through their key funding partners (Council and The Trusts) and a number of supporters close to $10 million dollars. Design, fundraising and construction was undertaken during 2007 and the Grandstand, including
offices and function rooms was completed and opened in February 2008. The opening event was the IAAF Black Singlet Invitational Athletics meeting where Gold Medalist Valerie Vili threw her qualifying throw for the Beijing Olympics and one of the Top 10 international Shotput performances of the year.Present fundraising for the completion of floodlighting of Douglas Track and Field is underway.