It might have Helen Clark up in arms, but Eden Park neighbour Toby Morris can’t see the problem with live music at the stadium.
Rising above the hedges and wooden villas it’s impossible to miss: a giant hulking pile of steel and bulbous clear plastic, like a space craft crashed into leafy Auckland suburbia. It’s Eden Park’s southern stand, and it’s the view from my backyard. Yes, in my backyard.
This week the neighbours of Eden Park have been in the news, complaining about a proposed charity concert to be held in February to raise funds to provide incubators for premature babies in developing countries. Charity? Music? Helping premature babies? The Eden Park Neighbours Association wants none of that, and high profile member Helen Clark has publicly spoken out against the event. Why? It’s trap they say – a Trojan horse designed to sneak concerts into the sports venue. You have one and soon there’ll be more: disruptive, invasive, raucous, late night concerts. For years it’s been discussed, and every time the idea gets shot down: too loud, too close to too many houses.
But not all the neighbours object. I don’t, for one. It was a topic of conversation at a recent street party barbeque and the general consensus seemed to be that most people weren’t overly fussed about it either way. Someone suggested that as long as concerts didn’t go over multiple nights than they wouldn’t be too worried, and everyone seemed to think that was reasonable. Even the most fervent Ed Sheeran fan would’ve got the gist by the third night in row.
But otherwise? I just don’t think it’d be that big of a deal. Yes, it’d be loud, but fireworks are loud, and rugby is loud and life goes on. We can already hear concerts at Western Springs. Oh well.
When we first looked at the house we’re renting, I was worried that being so close to the stadium could be a hassle. Drunken crowds on the lawn, smashed bottles in the driveway. Honking cars with dickheads hanging out the windows waving flags. Airhorns.
But it’s not like that at all. The bad sides are much more mundane than I feared: during smaller games there are a few extra cars parked on the road, and for big games our street gets blocked off, meaning we have go through a kind of security checkpoint to get home. There’s a window of about half an hour before and after a big game where it’s a pain to get a taxi or takeaways delivered. Perhaps the toughest burden of all is when you don’t go to a game and you’re watching it at home: you can hear the real crowd cheer a few moments before something good happens on TV. So, micro-spoilers and occasional parking hindrances: it’s a tough life.
But the good side is pretty good, and in all honesty, that’s what we chose. I love the buzz of game day, even if I’m not going, and it’s sweet being within stumbling distance if I am. My uncle likes to park on my lawn and we catch up often, before wandering around the corner, and even when the Blues lose at least it’s a thing we share together. Even when I don’t go I love hearing the crowd roar. I reckon you can’t overrate the value of shared experiences, the simple joy of thousands of people shouting or cheering or booing at the same thing together.
In recent years, in response to the increasingly cranky Neighbours Association I guess, the park itself has dialled up a neighbourhood PR offensive. They give away a few tickets to things that haven’t sold out (meaning basically everything except All Blacks games) and at Christmas they invite everyone who lives nearby to big party with a sausage sizzle and presents for all the kids. If the weather is nice they let people play cricket on the number two field and one year Santa arrived on a Harley and did donuts under the western stand. Call me a sucker for a free sausage with onions and the odd ITM Cup ticket, but it works for me. I think they’re good neighbours.
So I’m OK with the idea of concerts there. Eden Park was here long before me and it’ll be here long after. As residents we didn’t go in blind: it’s literally very bloody visible, and while I’ve seen people argue it’s been here as a sports venue not a concert venue, I feel like a venue is a venue. I don’t see how you can be all ‘not in my backyard’ about something that’s already been in your backyard for a hundred years.
From where I stand, the stadium is an asset, and I want the stadium to be used. I’m okay with a little bit of action, a little bit of noise. I don’t want to sit at home in silence, I want to live in a city where things are happening. I want mates to park on my lawn and drop in for a chat before they go. I want something to talk about at work the next day. I want shared experiences. I want life in my neighbourhood. And sometimes life is loud.
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