Backlash as Christchurch councillors vote for cheaper 25,000-seat stadium option

The starting gun's fired on Christchurch's new stadium - more than a decade after the earthquakes destroyed Lancaster Park.

Design will now begin on a more compact version with 25,000 seats, to stay within budget - but some think it's a missed opportunity.

Christchurch hasn't hosted an All Blacks game with a full capacity crowd since before the earthquakes. But a lot's changed in the last decade, including the way people prefer to watch sport.

"The arena is going to compete with people watching from home; here, they can have the heating just right where they don't have to queue for the bathroom," said Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel.

That factor played into Christchurch city leaders voting for a 25,000-seat multi-use arena.

The $470 million facility will have a roof, lots of leg space and good viewing opportunities - but not everyone is pleased about the pared-back design.  

Fierce debate erupted when several councillors pushed their preference of 30,000 seats. 

"It's a real missed opportunity that we couldn't get that long-term solution today for what's going to be a 100-year asset," said councillor Sam MacDonald.

Locals agree.

"It's a bit silly if you're wanting to bring tourists into the city," said one.

"You should have more room for tourists, really," added another.

The arena will be the Crusaders' new home. They're not worried about the reduced capacity.

"We're desperate to see it open as soon as it possibly can be. If we had to wait another 10 years for more seats, no thanks."

Stadiums in other major centres all exceed 30,000-minimum capacity.

New Zealand Rugby says when allocating Test matches, stadium capacity is a factor but not the only one - but Canterbury rugby fans won't want to take that risk.

The wait for a big test has been long enough, and with the ground still looking nothing like a stadium, it'll be a while longer yet.