Stadium Christchurch today celebrated the completion of its $60 million redevelopment, making it New Zealand’s second largest sporting venue.
A dawn blessing, attended by Prime Minister the Hon. John Key and other dignitaries, marked the official re-opening of the new-look stadium. The new 13,000 seat Deans Stand is the centrepiece of the redevelopment which includes a number of other improvements including an internal concourse linking all sections of the stadium.
The refurbished stadium will host five pool matches and two quarter-final matches for Rugby World Cup 2011 (RWC 2011).
“This is a significant milestone in our preparations for RWC 2011,” said Rugby New Zealand 2011 Limited (RNZ 2011) CEO Martin Snedden who also attended the ceremony.
“The upgrade ensures that Stadium Christchurch will be a showcase venue for RWC 2011. The venue has a long history of hosting top-quality events and the redevelopment will leave a lasting legacy for New Zealand sport and the people of Canterbury to enjoy for years to come.”
The redevelopment has significantly increased the stadium’s permanent capacity to 38,628, bringing it up to international standard. Temporary seating will boost the capacity to nearly 45,000 for RWC 2011.
“I have fond memories of this stadium from my days in international cricket,” said Snedden. “The new stand is very impressive and this, plus the other improvements, have really raised the bar in terms of what teams and spectators can expect in 2011.
“The stage is now set for fans to enjoy a fantastic Rugby experience next year. I congratulate all those involved in redeveloping the stadium into a world-class facility which will play its part in helping New Zealand hold an excellent Tournament.”
The new three tiered Deans Stand which replaces several ageing stands, provides cover for 86 percent of seats and is fittingly named in tribute to the Deans family, considered Canterbury’s “First Family of Rugby”. Its members include most recently former Canterbury and All Blacks player, former Canterbury Crusaders and current Australian coach Robbie Deans. His brother Bruce also played for Canterbury and the All Blacks, as did their great uncle Bob.
Stadium Christchurch is one of country’s oldest sporting venues and witness to great New Zealand Rugby history such as Ian Kirkpatrick’s famous run from halfway to score in the second test against the Lions in 1971.
The original stadium dates back to 1880 when the Canterbury Cricket and Athletics Sports Company purchased ten acres from the estate of Benjamin Lancaster of Bournemouth, England. The sports ground adopted the name Lancaster Park and was officially opened in 1881.
In its early years Lancaster Park hosted a variety of sporting events including trotting, cycling, swimming, tennis and even hot air ballooning. Other notable events include visits by Pope John Paul II (1986) and Queen Elizabeth (1963). During World War I the ground was dug up to grow potatoes to support the war effort.
Today, the stadium hosts a number of international sporting fixtures, in particular Rugby and cricket, as well as concerts by world-renowned artists.