Dunedin's big night out

Fans cheer on England and Argentina at a packed Otago Stadium on Saturday night. Photo by Stephen...
Fans cheer on England and Argentina at a packed Otago Stadium on Saturday night. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Lineout action from the game. Photo by Linda Robertson.
Lineout action from the game. Photo by Linda Robertson.
Tasmanian visitor Tom Calderwood sleeps yesterday morning at his makeshift overnight campsite at...
Tasmanian visitor Tom Calderwood sleeps yesterday morning at his makeshift overnight campsite at Logan Park. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
English fans in full voice at the stadium. Photo by Craig Baxter.
English fans in full voice at the stadium. Photo by Craig Baxter.

The opening weekend of the 2011 Rugby World Cup had cash registers ringing and Dunedin businesses singing the praises of overseas visitors.

Otago Stadium might have taken centre stage on Saturday, with a capacity crowd of 26,000 noisy fans watching England beat Argentina 13-9 in the first international at the venue, but the match was also a boon for many businesses.

Otago Motel Association president Richard Hanning said every motel bed in Dunedin was taken on Saturday night.

"I've never seen anything as big as this in Dunedin before," he said yesterday. "It's great for everyone, because it means there's a lot of spending happening in town, which flows down through the whole community. We've had guests hiring cars and exploring the peninsula and all around Dunedin."

The Dunedin Holiday Park more than tripled its previous best occupancy night.

"It was our biggest night by miles," owner Rex Moss said yesterday. "We had 700 campervans here on Saturday night. Our previous record for one night was 206, for the [2005] Lions game. It's going to be a very good month."

Sahara Motel manager Gerry Sutherland said the weekend even eclipsed university graduations, which traditionally stretched motel resources.

"Saturday night was huge. We had things like people parking their campervans in our car park, which you wouldn't normally see."

Like the accommodation providers, many Dunedin bars experienced their heaviest trading in years. The Octagon became a good-natured scrum on Saturday night, as thousands of fans descended on the centre of town after the England-Argentina match at Otago Stadium.

The only hijinks was when a bottle of detergent was poured into the Octagon water feature, creating an impromptu and not World Cup-sanctioned foam party.

Alibi Bar general manager Brad Bosselman said: "It was the busiest night we've ever had and we've been here five years in October.

"There were no problems whatsoever. It was awesome.

"There's still another three games to go and we're going to be chocka for every one. The last one will be a really big weekend, because the Irish will be here for Ireland versus Italy."

Warren Halford, general manager of Terrace Bar, said there had been few problems, despite large numbers.

"We were busy all day, from 12.30pm till 3am when we closed. It was a great night. It was a great vibe and the general attitude of the fans was fantastic. It would rival the biggest night we've ever had. The only other one that would come close would be the Lions tour six years ago."

Craft Bar duty manager Daniel Clark was also full of praise for the visiting fans.

"It's great to see so many polite visitors in the city. They really got into it, but they were a lot better behaved than your normal New Zealand rugby crowd. It would be a record turnover for us. It was probably a quarter bigger than our previous biggest night."

Dunedin police were pleased not to be busy on Saturday night, making just 18 arrests, mainly for minor offences.

- nigel.benson@odt.co.nz

 

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