The City of Cape Town is building another stadium in Green Point. Next to the iconic Cape Town stadium, a new Green Point athletics stadium is currently under construction, with a capacity to seat 5500 spectators. futurecapetown.com has been critical of the design of the new stadium, but I’d like to take another step back: Why is a new athletics stadium at all necessary? Isn’t there a state-of-the-art athletics stadium in Bellville, which was given a multi-million rand upgrade as recently as 2005? Moreover, this is prime property. Next to the new Cape Town stadium, this land could have been rezoned to accommodate a five-star hotel or A-grade offices. Or why not build a sports tower to accommodate the offices and archives of Western Province Rugby, Ajax Cape Town, and all the other sport federations in the province, offering further incentives for WP Rugby to move from Newlands to the impressive Cape Town stadium? It’s not even that the new athletics stadium is built with a long-term events strategy in mind. As futurecapetown.com points out, the new stadium cannot even be expanded for large events. If Cape Town hopes to host the All Africa Games, or Commonwealth Games, or Olympic Games, the new stadium would be pretty useless.
As I’ve written before, infrastructure like sports stadiums says a lot about the city’s vision for its future. Cape Town stadium positions Cape Town as a world-class city, able to stage a FIFA World Cup and – hopefully – many international rugby and soccer matches (and a concert or two). But would a new athletics stadium of this size not have been more sensible in a densely populated, under-serviced area like Langa or Harare, Khayelitsha? If we would like to nurture South Africa’s next generation of world-class athletes, do you build a 5500-capacity stadium in Green Point, where the opportunity cost of land is excessive, or in Khayelitsha, close to those kids who might dream about being the next Mbulaeni Mulaudzi or Khotso Mokoena? I would think the latter.