Anne Gibson

Property editor of the NZ Herald

Getting them to the game on time

Christchurch Stadium. Photo / APN
Christchurch Stadium. Photo / APN

Building a new home for the Crusaders saw workers burning the candle at both ends.

One of New Zealand's biggest new infrastructure projects is the new 17,000-seat Christchurch rugby stadium, built in record time.

Teams worked extended shifts, material orders were given priority and recycled lights and even turf were used to speed the job across the try line.

As head contractor, Hawkins Construction was in charge of the team that built the stadium at Addington's former Rugby League Park in under 100 days to replace the earthquake-damaged former AMI Stadium, previously called Lancaster Park, then Jade Stadium.

Work started in late spring but the entire venue had to be opened ready for this year's footy season kick-off.

A 400-plus workforce was on site, but Hawkins said it faced the pressure "of an immovable deadline of a Crusaders' home game at stake".

The Ministry of Economic Development said the devastating earthquakes left the city without a venue to host big outdoor sporting and music events, so a decision was taken to build the new venue.

"Following a review of other venues, Addington was considered the most suitable and available location for the new stadium," the Ministry said. It had been used for A&P shows and rugby matches in the past, and with existing open space zoning.

Canterbury Rugby League agreed to surrender its lease and work began in November when Hawkins moved in and demolition started. Two old stands, ancillary buildings, lights towers, embankments and concrete bleacher seats were all stripped out and taken away.

Just before Christmas, four lighting towers, recycled from Carisbrook, were trucked up from Dunedin.

By January, earthworks and ground improvements had begun to prepare the site for building. Foundations had gone up for lighting towers and drainage works were under way.

Turf was brought from the damaged stadium and lights from Carisbrook were remodelled for installation.

Towards the end of February, Hawkins had all the earthworks and ground improvements done. The concrete foundations for the north, south and west stands were nearing completion and four lighting towers were rising.

The seating areas and fabric roof sections in the north and south stands were being installed. Corporate suite portacoms were custom-made off site. Food and beverage portacoms were brought down from Eden Park, and reconditioned before they were transported to the site for installation.

By the end of March, the stadium was finished and opened.

"On March 24, the Crusaders ran on to the field in their first home game since the Christchurch earthquakes wrecked their old base," Hawkins said.

All the workers, including sub-contractors and tradesmen "felt a huge sense of shared pride. The pressure of tight timeframes meant a less traditional approach to the project. For example, being able to procure all the necessary materials immediately was vital so Hawkins needed to be in front of the queue with suppliers and obtain a quick response to all requests," the building firm said.

"There were also day and night rosters with the night workers focusing on tasks that needed to be completed before the next day's tasks could be done - things like the erection of the structural steel framework, electrical work and concrete pours.

"And laying of the underground hydraulic services was a seven-day-a-week task for the crew of drainlayers.

"Hawkins' initiative to implement site safety courses for all non-compliant workers at the beginning of the project has obviously borne desired results including the up-skilling of many workers in the industry," Hawkins said.

- NZ Herald

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