World Cup Countdown: Auckland puts its best face forward for the cup

By Bernard Orsman

The Cloud will be able to hold almost 6,000 people. Photo / Supplied
The Cloud will be able to hold almost 6,000 people. Photo / Supplied

Come the Rugby World Cup, Auckland's biggest problem will be finding enough people to pour the beer, says Heart of the City chief executive Alex Swney.

Party Central is locked and loaded, new developments at the Wynyard Quarter will be stars of the show and there will be plenty of entertainment at Aotea Square, says the central city cheerleader.

Central Auckland - daytime population 170,000 - is already the country's "fourth largest city", says Swney, and will swell with tens of thousands more Aucklanders and up to 40,000 international visitors on any given match day.

It is not just downtown Auckland that is gearing up for the six-week tournament. Fanzones are springing up at Albany Lakes, The Trusts Stadium in Henderson and the Mangere Arts Centre. More than 30 suburbs will be decked out in the colours of visiting teams and almost 1000 businesses have joined the NZ 2011 Business Club to take advantage of the Cup.

RWC 2011 Auckland co-ordination group boss Rachael Dacy says with 100 days until kick-off, there is no doubt Auckland will be ready to be the hub of the tournament.

"What's really exciting is that Aucklanders are starting to see what a difference RWC 2011 is making to this city and the legacy the tournament will leave."

All that remained to be done over the next 100 days, she said, was to keep the foot on the accelerator and to get Aucklanders excited about the tournament.

Auckland's most visible symbol for the Cup is the steel-framed Cloud on Queens Wharf. The $9.8 million structure will provide an indoor venue to watch live matches on a big screen, and host trade displays, media and VIPs. Fans will also be able to watch games on big screens and listen to live performances outside at "party central" on Queens Wharf.

Shed 10 on the wharf is undergoing a $4 million upgrade, which includes a new roof and exterior cladding.

Further along the waterfront a $2 million plastic waka will be set up on Te Wero Island at the Viaduct Harbour. The waka has attracted its share of critics but Ngati Whatua project manager Renata Blair said it would be used to create opportunities for Maori businesses and a place where people could experience Maori culture during the Cup.

In the words of Swney, some of the stars of the show will be six public projects costing $120 million at Wynyard Quarter, also known as the Tank Farm.

The $32 million Viaduct Events Centre at the end of Halsey St with its distinctive wave-like roof is nearly complete, and work is on track for a $3.7 million bridge linking the Viaduct Harbour with the first developments at Wynyard Quarter.

They include turning Jellicoe St into a tree-lined boulevard, a $5.5 million Gateway Plaza featuring seating, art and steps down to the water's edge, and the $12 million Silo Park at the western end of Jellicoe St.

At North Wharf two new buildings have gone up on either side of a 1930s Auckland Harbour Board shed. These have been leased to cafes and restaurants, many seafood-based, and original features will be kept, such as old rail tracks with strip lighting inserted into them.

Waterfront Auckland, the public body carrying out the work, is also installing a 1.5km tram circuit of Wynyard Quarter. It is envisaged that Wynyard Quarter will be more family-friendly than party central.

One issue still to be tested is a full trial of the Eden Park transport plan at the Bledisloe Cup test match on August 6. A partial trial during the recent Blues v Stormers Super 15 match, where 3800 fans travelled to the park by train and 1900 by bus, resulted in traffic backing up as far as Symonds St and Newton Rd with the closure of Sandringham Rd.

For pool matches at Eden Park, organisers are aiming for up to 36,000 fans to arrive by public transport or walk, a number which will increase up to 45,000 for finals games.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown is pleased with the progress being made on getting the city ready for the Cup.

"This will be the biggest event to come to Auckland for a generation so we have to make sure it works.

"There will be good positive spin-offs for Aucklanders ranging from the upgrade of public transport through to development along the waterfront. We have been working on preparing for this event for many years and the focus will soon shift from building the infrastructure to getting the community and Auckland businesses behind the activity.

"People will soon start to see the tournament come alive as we get closer to kick-off," Mr Brown said.

Auckland fanzones
Party Central, Queens Wharf.
Capacity 20,000, Cloud, Shed 10, live match screenings, entertainment, showcase for New Zealand arts, food, wine and culture, focal point for opening night celebrations.

Albany Lakes.
Capacity 10,000, two big screens, one floating on the lake, one licensed area and one family-friendly area, entertainment to include live bands and cultural performances.

The Trusts Stadium, Henderson.
Capacity 6000, indoor venue with separate licensed and family areas, live entertainment with a West Auckland feel.

Mangere Arts Centre.
Family and children's activities, arts and crafts market, strong Maori and Pacific Island flavour.

- NZ Herald

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