Coronavirus: Armageddon Expo organisers relieved, excited by alert level move

Auckland's imminent move to alert level 1 has brought relief to many in the events industry, including the founder of the Armageddon Expo ahead of its 25th anniversary.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday that the super city will move to alert level 1 on Wednesday night with the latest cluster thought to be under control. 

That means no limits on gatherings, exciting many in the events industry which has been hampered by restrictions. At alert level 2, social gatherings had a limit of 100 people while there were distancing requirements at public facilities.

One of those pleased by the move is William Geradts, who organises the Armageddon Expo. That Auckland event is scheduled to take place between October 23 and 26 and will this year celebrate its 25th anniversary. It's expected to attract 60,000 people.

"It is very exciting. It takes us a year to plan the show so we were hoping this would be the time. Particularly, because it is our 25th anniversary. It is a huge thing for us to be able to do the event when we planned it as we planned it," he told Newshub.

"One of the problems doing any event with COVID is that you are rolling the dice. We just decided that it is was worth the risk. We have a lot [of] faith in the way that New Zealand has handled COVID.

"It's definitely been a challenge and it has been an emotional one more than a physical one for us because it's just a rollercoaster all year around."

He said the entire industry has been hit hard by COVID-19, mentioning one event that was all ready to begin when restrictions hit, meaning organisers couldn't pack out for two weeks.

It is important, Geradts told Newshub, to realise that money isn't just being spent on events on the days they are open to the public. He said while Armageddon doesn't take place until October 23, advertising began on Monday. 

"We are spending money now that if something happens, we don't get back. That's a risk. Then you get to the week of the show and the minute you start building things, you are spending money. The minute the tech is there, you are spending money. If something happens halfway through the show, you have spent virtually every dollar you would have spent but without the reward.

"There is a massive risk to anybody doing an event, doing a concert tour, anything where you are selling advanced tickets to something… that's a level of uncertainty that does make it difficult to keep going."

He said with this year's 25th anniversary, it was "either sink or swim". 

With Auckland having not seen any new community transmission lately, Geradts was confident alert level 1 was coming soon. But he was watching on Monday to see if any specific limitations would be put on gatherings, which didn't happen.

"In this case, we got the best result we could possibly get."

He said there will be contact tracing with the COVID app at the event and hand sanitiser stations around the venue.

While there will be some physical guests attending, the bulk will beam in virtually. Geradts said, in that regard, COVID had been beneficial, as it allowed the opportunity for bigger name guests to participate. 

"That's opened up massive celebrities that we would never get before. We have the emperor from Star Wars, we have the Scarlet Witch from the Marvel movies doing panels direct to the public. There is a lot of extra stuff that has actually made the show a bigger one."