31 Jul 2017

Wild weather keeps punters away from Crusaders games

8:06 pm on 31 July 2017

The debate over whether Christchurch needs a covered stadium has re-ignited after consecutive low turnouts for two of the Crusaders' biggest games of the year.

A Super Rugby game at the AMI Stadium earlier this year - Crusaders vs Chiefs.

A Super Rugby game at the AMI Stadium earlier this year. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The temporary AMI Stadium was almost half empty for last Saturday's semi-final against the Chiefs as temperatures plummeted to -2°.

Even fewer turned out the previous weekend for the side's do or die quarter-final against the Highlanders where heavy rain made for a miserable time for players and fans alike.

After a stand-out season from the Crusaders the stage was set Saturday night for a semi-final show down with super rugby super stars the Chiefs.

But for a second weekend in a row the weather got in the way.

Instead of being a sell out, only 13,000 fans braved the sub-zero night.

One of those not put off by the cold was 87-year-old Dennis Young who rugged up with his trusty sheepskin lined jacket.

"I've owned a fleecy lined jacket for many a season and I bring it out in bad bad weather and it qualified."

A little bit of cold weather was never going to stop the former All Blacks hooker from going to this game.

He's endured worse - including his first ever match for Canterbury which just happened to be against the Lions.

He was given the job of marking that side's hooker who was also their captain, an experience he described as "frightening".

But even this hardy soul believed it was time for the city to have a covered stadium.

Despite his sheepskin jacket, he said being out in the open was not much fun on Saturday night.

"By the time the final score came around I was quite happy [to get out of there]."

While the cold was what kept people home over the weekend, it was the wet that did it the week before, when chaotic weather and flooding threw the Crusaders' game against the Highlanders in jeopardy.

In the build up, 15,000 seats had been sold but just 10,000 turned up on the night.

This reporter was amongst them and can report it was very wet and very cold.

Things were particularly rough for young families in the uncovered 'Take a kid to footy' seats with some of the younger fans reduced to tears after it all got too much for them.

It was these scenes the chief executive of Crusaders Rugby, Hamish Riach, was keen to see the back of.

There was a direct correlation between bad weather and low turnouts, he said.

"We could see it in our ticket sales during the week, starting off pretty positively and they were selling well and then we had a forecast that another southerly was coming through and the ticket sales just stopped. So we know that it was people thinking about the weather and people thinking about their experience at the stadium."

The last two weeks were proof the city needed a covered stadium, even if it did not turn a profit, he said.

"One of the frustrations we often have with our conversations about stadiums... is that they are expected to be economically viable but no one expects the town hall or the art gallery or your big public park in the middle of the city to have an economic return."

The Christchurch City Council has committed to building a new stadium at a cost of $250 million.

But this has been put off until 2025.

A ray of sunshine for those not happy about spending another eight years getting wet and cold at the rugby has been provided by a pre-feasibility study the council is doing on whether the stadium should have a roof and whether it could be built sooner.

The results of that are due in August.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs