Andrew Dickens: What are we going to do about our stadiums?

Author
Andrew Dickens,
Publish Date
Sun, 9 Feb 2020, 9:55AM
Eden Park likes to call itself our National Stadium - it's time we make that official. (Photo / NZ Herald)

Andrew Dickens: What are we going to do about our stadiums?

Author
Andrew Dickens,
Publish Date
Sun, 9 Feb 2020, 9:55AM

It’s been an extraordinary few weeks in the country for big events and the coming together of many people.

Waitangi Day this year I thought was a huge success.  The commemoration was respectful and fun.  There was protest, there was dissent, but it was measured and calm. 

I had a couple of friends who got the feeling it was going to be a good time who made the last minute decision to go North on the day before.  Off they went armed with a pup tent because there was no room at the inn. It was their first time.  They said it was wonderful. Warm and tropical and full of happy New Zealanders of all colours. That’s the way that Day should be.  We’ve got 365 other days to have arguments about details.

Meanwhile, superstars of music leapfrogged each other all over New Zealand. Sir Elton John started his New Zealand Tour in Dunedin before celebrating his Waitangi Day at the Mission in Hawkes Bay.  Five days after Michael Buble and a 36 piece orchestra swung his way through the same venue.

At the same time, Queen with Adam Lambert rocked through the country in double quick time with their Rhapsody tour. Filling Wellington’s Sky Stadium on Wednesday. Mount Smart Stadium on Friday and Forsyth Barr in Dunedin tomorrow. Add in three Elton John concerts later in the month and that’s eight stadium filling gigs.  Actually, make that 13, as Six60 are selling out Western Springs Stadium.

And here’s a thing.  It’s nice to see these stadiums actually being used to their capacity for once.

I was at the cricket at Eden Park last night.  Don’t let the TV pictures fool you.  The place was empty.  The South Stand virtually uninhabited.  You could say it’s because this was a game between two teams who have played six times already this year.  But then again, back in the day the Auckland ODI was a heaving sweaty mass of 40,000 people. 

Meanwhile, FMG Stadium in Hamilton.  Capacity 25,800 was a third full for a cracking game of rugby between Razor Robertson’s Crusaders and Warren Gatland’s Chiefs.

It’s a conundrum.  Is sport losing its hold on New Zealanders?  Has 25 years of paywalled sport on the telly turned off a generation and created a crowd that doesn’t like to leave it’s couch?

Certainly live sport has priced itself out of the game.  Why pay 50 bucks for a seat in a stadium and overpriced food?  Why didn’t New Zealand Cricket say 10 bucks and fill the joint? Twitter had numerous debates about the problem. Uni students moaning that there’s no way they’re spending $45 for a ticket once a season, let alone five or six.

When sport was king, our local bodies went stadium crazy. Based on our average sports attendance there is no need for any stadium in this country to be much greater than a 20,000 seater. That for rock concerts can easily host 30,000.

But for the odd big things you’ll still need a big stadium, like All Blacks matches. Or Rolling Stones tours. 

In a month’s time, the regulations hobbling Eden Park are to be debated in hearings.  Eden Park likes to call itself the National Stadium.  I think it’s time to bite the bullet and make it so.  Taxpayers have poured 100 of millions into it.  Ratepayers have poured more again.  England plays at Twickenham, Ireland plays at Lansdowne Road, Wales Cardiff Arms and Scotland, Murrayfield.  We already have a template.

Smaller multi use stadiums in each city and one big one. Eden Park is a 1 billion dollar white elephant that is still lovable.  And this this is more than an Auckland problem. It’s a New Zealand problem.