Monday, April 26, 2010

Right up there with the best in the world

 David Kennedy, chief executive of Eden Park Trust, [and ex Fletcher employee] writes about a new stadium 'experience' in store for sports fans.

Eden Park will get all the trimmings in preparation for the Rugby World Cup 2011. Eden Park will get all the trimmings in preparation for the Rugby World Cup 2011. Photo / Supplied From the ticket purchase to the final whistle, Eden Park is gearing up to give rugby fans a world-class sporting and entertainment experience - and not just for Rugby World Cup 2011.

Redevelopment at Auckland's traditional home of rugby is on track to ensure fans old and new enjoy every minute of the action in vastly improved surroundings. It will earn Eden Park its place among the great international sporting stadiums, in terms of atmosphere and amenities. With the park having its biggest transformation in its 100-year history, we will have a $350 million regional asset that Rugby New Zealand 2011 chief executive Martin Sneddon has dubbed the "surprise package" of the Rugby World Cup. With Government funding helping transform the park, the new Eden Park Trust Act requires that the Government-appointed trustees operate the park for the benefit of the people of Auckland. That certainly starts with our traditional rugby and cricket fans, whose support over many years has helped create the Eden Park legacy that is famous the world over.

Their support has been tested at times, as the Eden Park experience has not always lived up to expectations. But our redevelopment is offering a prime opportunity to turn every rugby fan's wish for a much better Eden Park into reality - although the results on the field will still be beyond our control.

Over the next 18 months, patrons will notice many improvements including:
• Electronic ticketing.
• Faster, smoother access through four main gates.
• An integrated full walk around concourse (no more ducking outside the park to access another stand).
• Top-line electronics - all the action, on screen.
• Better lighting and sound systems.
• About 80 per cent of seating covered and better seats all round. Also 48 new corporate boxes and two VIP lounges.
• Upgraded food and beverage outlets, better toilet facilities, easier access to enter and leave the ground and improved and streamlined transport options.

These enhanced features aren't just for the RWC but are permanent and are designed to start Eden Park on the journey to become New Zealand's number one sporting and entertainment stadium. That is a big ambition but one the new trust is determined to fulfill. The new Eden Park experience begins with the ticket. New electronic ticketing facilities will mean fans will be able to buy online and get bar coded tickets that can be swiped at one of four enlarged main gates, which will be a feature of each corner of the park. These will replace the 27 gates of the past, which were needed because there was no concourse linking all parts of the park.

The old Eden Park was six buildings around a patch of grass. The new stadium is a fully integrated facility with the concourse a key part of the redevelopment. Fans will be able to access all stands in the park without leaving the park. The concourse, with its internal TV monitors linked into the two 110sq m superscreens in the stadium, means not a second of on-field action will be missed if fans move around to catch up with friends or to buy refreshments. With our food and beverage outlets, the redevelopment is the perfect opportunity to lift our game, with permanent outlets replacing some of the former temporary setups, enabling better variety, better service and easier access. Our new catering facilities include Auckland's second-largest kitchen.
Better lighting and sound systems will enhance the sporting atmosphere inside the grounds, while minimising disturbance to neighbouring properties.

Recent visitors have been impressed by the vision taking shape with 60,000 seats planned for Rugby World Cup 2011. That includes the new three-tier 22,000-seat South Stand, with 50 corporate boxes, the new two-tier East Stand replacing the eastern terraces and the extension of the ASB Stand with a 2000-seat lower bowl. After the cup, Eden Park will return to a permanent capacity of 50,000 seats. We'll be working hard to deliver an experience that gives fans every reason to fill the stands. In the near future, holders of Eden Park combination membership will no longer have to toss up between the prime seating for winter and summer codes. With the cricket pitch being aligned to the north-to-south axis, that perfect block of seats between the 22s will also be in the ideal cricket sightline, right behind the bowler. Redevelopment also means rugby fans can indulge their love of other sporting and entertainment options, without leaving "home".

To ensure our new stadium pays its way, both as the heartland of Auckland rugby and cricket and a community asset, the trust will be opening it up to other codes and entertainment events - starting with the rugby league international double header in November. This more diverse use means more opportunities to enjoy the park in a variety of sporting and entertainment settings. As anyone attending big games overseas can attest, getting to them can be as much a part of a great day out as the game itself. Eden Park visitors will now be able to share the anticipation of a "last leg" walk to the ground, in common with other major sporting stadiums.

Direct car access to the stadium will now be a thing of the past - if you still come by car then get used to a final short walk. If you want more direct access then public transport options are vastly improved.
A new bus terminal has been incorporated into the development, which will make bus access to the stadium very easy. Patrons will be dropped at the door and can catch a bus at the same spot at the end of the game.
A new walkway from the transformed Kingsland Station will also make pedestrian access quick, safe and easy.

It's all change at Eden Park - change we believe is for the better. We hope rugby fans share that view when they come to experience the full amenity later this year. Eden Park has a wonderful sporting legacy which the new trust intends to build on through this redevelopment.

In discussions earlier this year with Auckland mayors who agreed in principle to underwrite a $40 million loan to Eden Park to complete the upgrade, the trust directors made it clear their intention was to explore all commercial opportunities - including sponsorship - to help the park pay its way and not be a burden on rugby or cricket fans, ratepayers or taxpayers.

We said then that nothing was off the table but fans can be assured the trust will be doing everything in its power to try to preserve the traditional name of Eden Park.

By David Kennedy