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Figures released by Dunedin Venues this week showed an estimated 2.5million people have passed through the stadium’s gates since the venue opened in 2011.
That included about 800,000 people — at least 65% of them coming from outside Dunedin — who have attended concerts, international sporting fixtures and other major events under the roof.
The fans had helped pump an estimated $273million into the city’s economy since 2011, including nearly $30million in 2019 alone, the figures showed.
Dunedin Venues chief executive Terry Davies said the figures — based on customer surveys and analysis by an independent economist — showed the stadium was delivering economic benefits for the city.
‘‘The reality is, hotels are booked out, seats on planes are booked out, restaurants are booked out, cabs are chocker.’’
Not only were fans being drawn to Dunedin, but those already here were being encouraged to stay, he said.
‘‘We’re retaining people in the city, as well. Money is not leaving and being spent elsewhere.’’
The economic success came just as Christchurch seemed to be edging closer towards building a covered stadium to rival Dunedin’s.
The Christchurch City Council recently voted to accept an investment case to build a new $470 million, 25,000-seat covered multi-use arena.
Funding would be added to the council’s 2018-28 long-term plan, but the Government still needed to decide whether to approve its share of project funding, worth about $220million.
Mr Davies said he was watching events in Christchurch ‘‘out of the wing mirror’’, but his focus was on ensuring Dunedin’s venue was well positioned ‘‘to go even harder, if we have to, to win content’’.
‘‘Let’s say they get it up and running. They’re going to find there are challenges in finding their feet. The market is tough. It’s an incredibly competitive landscape.’’
‘‘We understand how to operate in that environment, we have experience in it now and we have relationships with all those content providers, and we know we deliver a high quality product ... Christchurch has to earn that,’’ Mr Davies said.
He said the stadium was also contributing to a ‘‘buzz’’ in the city and putting Dunedin ‘‘on the map’’ in the eyes of international audiences and promoters.
‘‘We’ve come a long way. When I first walked in here, we were a stadium that delivered some rugby events.
‘‘I think we’ve surprised a lot of people.’’
That had come only after Dunedin Venues staff had been forced to rebuild after a torrid first few years, he said.
Amid mounting losses, a paucity of events and a major review, Mr Davies became the stadium’s third chief executive in 2014 and quickly set about rebuilding the confidence of staff who had been ‘‘smashed’’ by public criticism.
The results have been evident, as major international acts — Ed Sheeran, Pink, Fleetwood Mac, Roger Waters and the Eagles, to name a few — began to beat a path to Dunedin’s door.
Million-dollar annual losses were also turned into small profits, although critics still pointed to the financial burden the stadium placed on ratepayers.
That included a rejig of stadium finances, which halved the company’s annual rent requirement — used to help service stadium debt — to $2million, and the ongoing financial drain on council companies.
Mr Davies said he respected the differing views on the stadium’s value to Dunedin, but his focus was on making sure it delivered — not relitigating the past.
More improvements were planned, including a significant investment in a new public address system for the stadium, scheduled for next year, followed by a new replay screen sometime in the next few years.
Work would also begin next year on the renewal of ‘‘key’’ commercial contracts, signed before the stadium opened, including the renewal of Forsyth Barr’s naming rights contract, he said.
Mr Davies also remained committed to his role, saying he was ‘‘up for the fight’’ if competition came from Christchurch.
‘‘I want to make sure we’re future-proofing this stadium well beyond my life ... I’m happy to continue with that goal in mind.’’