Playing to the crowd? Hardly, NZ stadiums are the world’s worst

Cricket fans wait for a game between Australia and New Zealand at McLean Park in Napier, New Zealand.
Cricket fans at McLean Park were forced to wait almost five hours for a game that never started. (Getty)

OPINION:  The twin stadium debacles in Wellington and Napier on Thursday have highlighted just how archaic and ’stuck in time’ Kiwi stadiums have become.

Just six years on from hosting one the most successful Rugby World Cups in history, and our sports bodies' and stadium management teams have not only rested on their laurels, they’ve regressed back to the 1980s - when a lukewarm pie and even warmer beer were considered suitable sustenance for an all-day stadium event.

The situation at the Guns N' Roses concert at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium may have been exacerbated by wet weather, but how did organisers not plan for such a damp night out?

Following on from the disaster that was the Wellington Sevens, where barely 10,000 people showed up for an event designed for 70,000, the Cake Tin had another crack at pretending be a world leading stadium, but again came up well short.

Thousands of rock fans were forced to queue without cover in the pelting rain for almost two hours just to get inside the stadium.

Thousands of Guns and Roses fans queue in the rain at Westpac Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand.
Thousands of Guns and Roses fans queue in the rain at Westpac Stadium. (Supplied)

The official line from Westpac Stadium was this:

An hour later the stadium issued an apology but no real explanation:

Patrons tweeted their disproval and frustration:

Once inside though the miserable experience continued for some fans.

Axl Rose and Slash from Guns and Roses
Fans this close to the stage at least got to hear the music properly. (Supplied)

As the band took the stage one hour late it was obvious the rushed sound-check had led to an appalling sound-mix, and fans standing 100m back from the stage couldn’t hear the music properly.

Apart from the appalling sound-mix people complained about the lack of Eftpos available after they’d queued half an hour for beer and food, others complained they weren’t informed when the gig would finish so they could organise a time to be picked up.

Beer sales were stopped barely an hour into the three hour gig.

After the show, people lamented the poor transport options organised to get patrons home.

Westpac Stadium has had almost two decades to sort out its myriad of issues for both sport and concerts. Watching cricket there can be a cold and emotionless experience, a rugby or football game even more so as fans are at some points seated fifty metres or more from the touchline.

Westpac is just too big, too circular, and too multi-use. It tries to be all things to all people but does nothing well.

Also yesterday, the appalling scenes at McLean Park in Napier were also sadly predictable.

Fans should have been told at 2pm that no play would be possible in the second one-dayer between the Blackcaps and Australia. Instead they were kept waiting all afternoon, just like they had been for the last two cricket internationals the postage-stamp sized ground has unsuccessfully tried to host.

Super-sopper at McLean Park in Napier
The super-sopper at McLean Park tries in vain to soak up water coming up through the outfield. (Getty)

Ground staff forgot to cover the outfield with tarpaulin and it got a little wet. Knowing full-well the ground’s drainage is appalling and not up to world standard, how could they have allowed it to get wet at all?

The ground couldn’t even drain 5ml of rain six hours after it had fallen!

Where were the updates from New Zealand Cricket to the patient fans that were waiting for play to start, but never did?

Why did over-zealous McLean Park security guards boot out a few fans who had tried to liven things up by trying to start a Mexican wave? You can hardly blame them for being bored.

Cricket grounds in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and even Zimbabwe have now overtaken some of our Kiwi grounds in the world pecking order.

International cricket should be banned from McLean Park until its wet outfield issues can be sorted out. It also has the shortest square boundaries in world cricket; can they fix that laughable aspect as well?

The Eden Park game-day experience has also dissipated greatly since the Rugby World Cup.

There were many complaints about the poor standard and price of food during Monday’s one dayer against Australia and during a T20 against Pakistan in 2016.

Barely ten thousand people showed up for the Pakistan game, but there wasn’t enough food and drink kiosks open, and queues quickly formed waiting to shell out $8.50 for a tasteless hotdog and tepid beer.

Was the queue worth the wait though?

The food available at Monday’s game was equally as bad, would you pay almost ten dollars for this unappetising looking ‘burger’?

Stadium catering has improved greatly in most parts of the world with craft beer, wine options and street-styled gourmet finger food stalls now commonplace.

Here in New Zealand we’re stuck with the same old poor quality muck that we’ve had to endure, seemingly since the 1981 Springbok Tour.

We still have to choose from over-priced beer, chips, burgers and hotdogs. Take your pick from that deep fried and boiled smorgasbord.

Something needs to be done to urgently improve the Kiwi stadium experience, or the small amount of fans who do turn up will stop coming for good.

Who knows what the thousands of rugby fans from the UK and Ireland will make of it all when they turn up for the Lions tour in a few months’ time?

In an age when stadiums are struggling to get bums on seats surely sports fans deserve so much better.


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