Big money spent on Cup venues

Adam Thomson (foreground centre) trains with the All Blacks at the Forsyth Barr Stadium in...
Adam Thomson (foreground centre) trains with the All Blacks at the Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin. Photo ODT

New Zealand has spent about NZ$550 million ($387 million) upgrading 13 venues that were to host the 48 rugby World Cup matches this year.

Organisers were forced to move Christchurch's matches to other venues throughout the country after two massive earthquakes in the last 12 months destroyed much of the central city and badly damaged the venue at Ami Stadium.

Only one venue has been built from scratch, the $198 million Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.

Auckland's Eden Park, which hosted the first rugby World Cup final in 1987, has undergone a $240 million redevelopment with a new 21,500-seat south stand and extended uncovered seating at both ends of the ground.

A new stand on the east of Christchurch's Ami Stadium was also constructed as part of a $60 million redevelopment, though the earthquakes badly damaged the ground with media reports suggesting the entire venue could be too costly to rebuild.

Several of the venues in provincial centres have had stands refurbished or rebuilt, with corporate and media facilities, lighting, and the playing surfaces all significantly upgraded.

Rugby World Cup grounds

Northland Events Centre, Whangarei

Capacity: 20,000

Matches: Tonga v Canada - September 14; Tonga v Japan - September 21.

A $18.5 million revamp of Okara Park was completed in May 2010, with a redeveloped main stand and improved playing surface. The mostly local-government funded redevelopment was to turn the venue into a multi-purpose sports hub for the entire region. The first-class cricket venue is adjacent to the rugby stadium.

Eden Park, Auckland

Capacity: 60,000

Matches: New Zealand v Tonga - September 9; Australia v Ireland - September 17; New Zealand v France - September 24; Fiji v Samoa - September 25; England v Scotland - October 1; Quarterfinal 2 - October 8; Semifinals - October 15 & 16; 3/4th playoff - October 21; Final - October 23.

Originally a drained swamp, it became a sports ground in 1900. The home of Auckland cricket since 1910 and Auckland rugby since 1925, it is also the site of the infamous flour bomb test between South Africa and New Zealand in 1981 and the first World Cup final in 1987. It has also hosted royal visits, football, hockey and rugby league internationals and the 1950 Commonwealth Games.

North Harbour Stadium, Albany

Capacity: 30,000

Matches: France v Japan - September 10; Australia v Italy - September 11; South Africa v Namibia - September 22; South Africa v Samoa - September 30.

The home of the North Harbour provincial rugby side, it normally hosts one Auckland Blues Super rugby fixture a year and pre-season matches for rugby league's New Zealand Warriors. The New Zealand Knights, the country's original A-League side, were based at the stadium before the team's licence was revoked in 2007.

Waikato Stadium, Hamilton

Capacity: 30,800

Matches: New Zealand v Japan - September 16; Wales v Samoa - September 18; Wales v Fiji - October 2.

Opened in 1925 as Rugby Park. Waikato beat the 1956 Springboks 14-10 at the ground in front of 31,000 people. Was also the site of a cancelled match on the 1981 Springboks tour when anti-apartheid protestors stormed the field.

The venue was redeveloped from 2000-2002 at a cost of $38 million and while principally the home of Super rugby's Waikato Chiefs and the
Waikato provincial side, it has also hosted moto-cross extreme sport events.

Rotorua International Stadium, Rotorua

Capacity: 34,000

Matches: Fiji v Namibia - September 10; Samoa v Namibia - September 14; Ireland v Russia - September 25.

Originally built in 1911, the stadium has been renovated several times. It is characterised by uncovered concrete seating opposite the 4000-seat main stand and sloping embankments. Held the third/fourth playoff between Australia and Wales during the 1987 World Cup.

McLean Park, Napier

Capacity: 18,700

Matches: France v Canada - September 18; Canada v Japan - September 27.

Originally established in 1910 to serve as a site for public recreation and as a memorial to 19th century politician Donald McLean. Essentially a rectangular rugby ground, but is also one of New Zealand's primary test cricket venues with its embankment at one end complemented by four separately built, but now linked, grandstands forming a horseshoe around the other three sides.

The new southern grandstand was part of a redevelopment for the World Cup and 2015 cricket World Cup, which will be jointly posted by Australia and New Zealand.

Stadium Taranaki, New Plymouth

Capacity: 25,500

Matches: Ireland v US - September 11; Russia v US - September 15; Wales v Namibia - September 26.

Established as Rugby Park in 1931, the first grandstand was not built until 1947. The home of Taranaki rugby, it underwent a major redevelopment in 2002 with the construction of two new stands. A $1.7 million facelift ahead of the World Cup however has created slight problems with both stands needing to have leaky roofs repaired. Has hosted several rugby internationals, including the All Blacks v Ireland in June, 2010.

Stadium Manawatu, Palmerston North

Capacity: 18,300

Matches: Georgia v Romania - September 28; Argentina v Georgia - October 2.

A multi-purpose arena, encompassing four separate venues, within 10 minutes walk of the city centre. The large site is used for the regional  agricultural show, while the main rugby ground is encircled by a dirt speedway track. The show grounds were used to train soldiers during World War Two. The venue hosted the first Super 12 match when the Auckland Blues played the Wellington Hurricanes in 1996. Home to the Manawatu
provincial team and their fanatical "buckethead" supporters. 

Wellington Regional Stadium, Wellington

Capacity: 40,000

Matches: South Africa v Wales - September 11; South Africa v Fiji - September 17; Australia v US - September 23; Argentina v Scotland - September 25; France v Tonga - October 1; New Zealand v Canada - October 2; Quarterfinals - October 8 & 9.

Built on rail yards land, the $130 million stadium replaced the windswept and crumbling Athletic Park as the main venue for rugby in 2000. Due to its oval shape and corrugated steel cladding, locals quickly nicknamed it 'The Cake Tin'.

Is a multi-use ground, hosting international limited overs cricket as well as rugby and football matches, open-air concerts and is the venue for the hugely popular New Zealand stop on the IRB's world sevens circuit. Film maker Peter Jackson also recorded 30,000 fans chanting during a cricket match at the ground to use as sound effects for his 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy.

Trafalgar Park, Nelson

Capacity: 20,080

Matches: Italy v Russia - September 20; Italy v US - September 27; Australia v Russia - October 1.

Cricket was played on the grounds as early as the 1880s before a trust purchased the park in 1891 with money left over to help fund the  movement of refugees from the New Zealand Wars in the North Island. Has hosted several other sports as well as a royal visit in 1954. A $3.8m upgrade was completed earlier in 2010 to improve facilities, the turf and drainage.

Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin

Capacity: 30,500

Matches: Argentina v England - September 10; England v Georgia - September 18; England v Romania - September 24; Ireland v Italy - October 2.

The $198 million multi-purpose indoor venue near the university was completed shortly before the tournament's start date and will replace the aging Carisbrook, which has been heavily criticised for its poor facilities. The new stadium's roof is clear and constructed with the same material that was used for Beijing's "Water Cube", which hosted the aquatic events during the 2008 Olympics, allowing grass to grow naturally. 

Opposition to the new stadium almost delayed the start of construction though it was completed in July and several "test events", including provincial rugby and an exhibition football match were played there before being handed over to World Cup organisers.

Rugby Park, Invercargill

Capacity: 20,000

Matches: Scotland v Romania - September 10; Scotland v Georgia - September 14; Argentina v Romania - September 17.

First established in the early 1900s the ground has been used for rugby since and is home to the Southland provincial side and occasionally hosts Otago Highlanders Super rugby games.

Capacity has diminished as seating was built. Hosted one game in the 1987 World Cup, between Wales and Canada. Had a major upgrade in 2001 with the South Stand replaced. 

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