Auckland's ultimate venue for mixing business and pleasure is just days away from being finished.
The $9.8 million Cloud on Queens Wharf will be finished at the end of this week, and have a limited opening on September 2 ahead of use during the Pacific Islands Leaders Forum and then the Rugby World Cup a week later.
Michael Barnett, the Auckland Chamber of Commerce head, was appointed to lead the showcasing programme in the Cloud in March and said the timetable had been tight but was confident it would be completed on time.
More than 40 New Zealand bands and musicians, themed family weekends and other entertainment are scheduled for the Cloud but the other purpose for the venue is to show off New Zealand innovation and creativity.
"Our bottom line is that we want to show that as a country we do things differently here," Barnett said.
Part of this means rapidly transforming the 3400sq m Cloud from a venue for rugby watching on 18m long by 4.5m high giant screens and listening to bands to an expo space where firms are shown off and business people can meet.
The two-hour switch from one use to the other will happen 18 times during the six-week tournament. Firms representing the marine, technology, fashion, wine and food sectors will be on display.
"We're telling New Zealanders a story as well. There are a lot of New Zealanders who don't know how innovative and creative we are."
All entertainment will be free at the Cloud and the neighbouring Main Stage and Shed 10. Artists include Che Fu, Anika Moa, Cornerstone Roots, Ardijah, The Jordan Luck Band, Julia Deans, The Feelers, Dragon, Opshop, Nick D and Karn Hall.
Barnett said he was confident the Cloud would be on Queens Wharf for at least a decade. Rugby World Cup Minister Murray McCully has said the Auckland Council can have it "for as long as they need it' while Auckland Mayor Len Brown is waiting until after the Cup to determine its future.
A mezzanine VIP area at the end has a spectacular view of the harbour and would be used for functions and for business meetings. Members of the free-to-join NZ2011 business club could use the facilities.
"You'll do special meetings where you can get some leverage off high-ranking business people, government ministers and international visitors."
Contact details would be sought from business people visiting the Cloud from overseas for follow up after the Cup.
Barnett said his biggest challenge had been figuring out the best way of telling the story about New Zealand during a 10-minute video on the big screens.
"Behind me there's a whole queue of people wondering how they can participate. I feel more like a puppeteer than anything else. I've just facilitated tens of thousands of willing people."
He said commentators questioning the estimated $700 million direct economic return from the Cup were overly pessimistic.
New Zealand has already benefited through the accelerated upgrade of infrastructure like stadiums, roads and public transport, tourism facilities and investments in hotels and restaurants.
"Many of the projects such as the upgrade to transport and hospitality facilities would likely have never happened or been delayed for years."
He was confident businesses would build new relationships that would help them win exports after the Cup.