24 Jul 2021

Dunedin has best test rugby stadium - Mayor Aaron Hawkins

8:17 am on 24 July 2021

First published on Otago Daily Times

By Grant Miller

A reduced-capacity covered stadium in Christchurch may allow Dunedin to pitch itself as the home of the premier stadium in the South Island.

Forsyth Barr stadium in Dunedin, during the last match between the All Blacks and Wallabies in Dunedin in 2013.

Forsyth Barr stadium in Dunedin, during the last match between the All Blacks and Wallabies in Dunedin in 2013. Photo: PhotoSport

Indeed, whatever ends up happening in Christchurch, Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins already backs Forsyth Barr Stadium.

Aaron Hawkins

Aaron Hawkins Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Kimberley Collins

"There's no doubt about it - Forsyth Barr Stadium is the best test rugby venue in the country," he said.

"The building is a big part of that, but it's also the way the entire city gets behind big events in Dunedin."

Christchurch is to press ahead with a stadium plan seating at least 25,000 people after most city councillors there decided a trim was necessary, because a 30,000-seat design could have put the project over budget by up to $131.4 million.

Capacity could be pushed up to 27,500 if the designers can find sufficient cost savings.

Christchurch's previous stadium, Lancaster Park, was damaged beyond repair by the February 2011 earthquake. The city has been making do with Orangetheory Stadium, which can seat more than 18,000 people.

The new stadium is expected to be of sufficient size for most sporting events, but possibly not major rugby test matches or one-off events.

Forsyth Barr Stadium - due to host the 100th test between the All Blacks and South Africa in September - has capacity for 30,748 spectators, or 36,000 for concerts.

Hawkins said the pitch was the best playing surface in the country, largely because of the control that could be exercised in managing the covered turf.

Another factor potentially influencing the events industry is that, of New Zealand's main centres, Dunedin has the highest proportion of young people and the city is home to about 25,000 university and polytechnic students.

Hawkins avoided taking a dig at Christchurch, but was happy to talk up Dunedin as a great place for events.

"The energy of the tertiary precinct is absolutely part of it, but ultimately the atmosphere in Dunedin around big events is unparalleled.

"It's a unique part of what we offer and we know it's important to producers, whether they're putting on international sports or stadium concerts."

Hawkins said the success of events came down to much more than just the venue.

In Dunedin, the skills brought by the Dunedin Venues Management team were crucial.

Christchurch's covered central stadium is due to be completed by the end of 2024.

This story was first published in the Otago Daily Times

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