For more than 100 years it had been known to the rugby playing world as the House of Pain, and for very good reason, too. It was a venue where New Zealand’s national team, the All Blacks, were virtually unbeatable. But it was a place that was tough on fans as well as visiting teams, what with often bitter winds and rain lashing the outer areas of the antiquated stands.But those days are now over as Dunedin welcomes the brand new Forsyth Barr Stadium at this year’s Rugby World Cup — which runs from September 9 to October 23 — because there is not another venue like it in the world.
The NZ$206 million (117 million euros) stadium will officially be revealed to the world at its first World Cup game — the Argentina v England clash on September 10 — and David Davies, CEO of stadium developer Dunedin Venues, is in no doubt about what the reaction will be.”I think when you walk in, you are won over. Simple as that,” says Davies. “So what has the city got for its money? Well, you’ve got the world’s first covered stadium with permanent grass.”
Using the ETFE polyethylene technology first developed in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou — and used on such projects at the Beijing Olympics’ Water Cube and the Millennium Project in Cornwall in the United Kingdom — the Dunedin stadium features a transparent roof that allows 95 percent of UV rays through, so the grass on its pitch can grow. It also allows for a tempering of Dunedin’s sometimes brutal weather conditions, while still retaining the sense that you are outside. And, thanks to a very wise seating plan, a clear and uninterrupted view of the action is there for each and every fan.
The stadium has also been positioned right next to the University of Otago — home to around 20,000 of the city’s population of 120,000 — to ensure all facilities there get constant use.That’s the plan, anyway, but the proof of whether it has all been worth it won’t come until long after the World Cup has ended.”Sometimes people forget these places are what they are — stadiums,” says Davies. “The memories don’t evaporate and new ones will come.”One thing is for certain though-it looks a lot more comfortable that that old House of Pain. – AFP