Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand was opened in 1900. A multipurpose ground, Eden Park is Auckland’s premier ground for both rugby and cricket. It is the home of the Blues and Auckland provincial rugby teams, and usually at least one All Black test a year.
Upon New Zealand winning the 2011 Rugby World Cup hosting rights it was eventually decided to make Eden Park the key stadium for the event.
Historically a 47,500 seat stadium, the seating needed to be increased to 60,000 to meet IRB World Cup regulations. 50,000 seats will be permanent, with the additional 10,000 being temporary. Upon completion, the new facilities were opened for the Auckland versus Waikato ITM Cup semi final and a rugby league international double-header featuring the Papua New Guinea versus England then New Zealand versus Australia on November 6th, 2010.
Eden Park Review
The NZ$240 million upgrade to Eden Park has been extensive. The exterior has been given a complete facelift. In some places it looks like a grand early 1900’s building, and a futuristic greenhouse in others. However, there is no question the new look is a major improvement. The perimeter fence has been removed making the stadium much more accessibility and connected to its neighbourhood.
Automatic ticket scanners and turnstiles make entry into the stadium quick and easy. As soon as you walk in you can see the playing field and hear the ground music as you stand in the large forecourt areas inside the entry gate, so the experience of being at the game starts as soon as you enter the stadium.
The new internal concourse inside Eden Park means you can now circumvent the entire stadium and therefore enter through any gate. However, a misplaced ATM can create a virtual wall of people when busy.
Eden Park now has two tiers on the east stand, an extended northern ASB stand and a new three-tier South Stand. Apparently there are about 100 seats in the south western section of the new South Stand that have limited visibility.
The South Stand features new toilet and food facilities, which are easily accessible and can move through volumes of people quickly. The ASB Stand’s food stalls, while good in appearance, clog easily and cause large queues at high volume times. It is probably quicker to walk to the other side of the stadium and get served there.
The stadium sections look somewhat cobbled together, but the sections in isolation look world class. The West Stand seating looks old, but should look okay when full of people.
Right next to the stadium is a train station, so once transport logistics are streamlined, it should allow for effective use of public transport when travelling to and from events. Unfortunately, even though the crowd was 15,000 short of capacity during the double-header, the train station was overloaded with huge queues.
Other than the congested train station, the stadium empties very quickly and easily for its crowd size.
Rugby League Four Nations Double-Header: Papua New Guinea versus England, New Zealand versus Australia
The upgraded Eden Park got off to a troubled start for its first international match. To open the new facilities it hosted a rugby league Four Nations double-header featuring Papua New Guinea versus England and then New Zealand versus Australia. It was only the second time the Kiwis rugby league had played at Eden Park.
The 45,000 attendance was nearly a record for a rugby league international in New Zealand. However the crowd behaviour had more in common with a rock concert than a sport event. Following fights, rowdy behaviour and a pitch invasion, the police had sales of alcohol stopped during the half time of the second game.
Twenty minutes before the end of the game a Mexican wave that featured bottles and other projectiles being thrown into the air and onto the field went around the stadium several times. When the wave showed no sign of abating many from the crowd began to leave the stadium. Other complaints about the crowd behaviour included bad language and the booing of the Australian National anthem.
Eden Park Facts:
Hosted some of the biggest events in New Zealand sporting history, including the 1950 Empire Games, the inaugural 1987 Rugby World Cup and the 1992 Cricket World Cup
Seats 50,000 seats, but has temporary seating to increase to 60,000 for the 2011 Rugby World Cup
Will feature in the Cricket World Cup 2015, which New Zealand and Australia will be co-hosting
With the upgrade 38,000 seats are covered
During the World Cup Eden Park will host the opening ceremony, and first pool game, New Zealand v Tonga. Other pool games to be played at Eden Park will be Australia v Ireland, New Zealand v France, Fiji v Samoa, England v Scotland. Heavily involved in the finals, Eden Park will host both of the semi finals, the third place play-off and the 2011 Rugby World Cup final.