Christchurch today got one step closer to readiness for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
AMI Stadium this morning celebrated the completion of its $60 million redevelopment, making it New Zealand's second largest sporting venue.
During the Rugby World Cup, the venue will be known by the name "Stadium Christchurch" due to advertising restrictions.
A dawn blessing to mark the official re-opening of the new-look stadium was attended by Prime Minister John Key and other dignitaries.
The new 13,000 seat Deans Stand is the centrepiece of the redevelopment which includes a number of other improvements including an internal concourse linking all sections of the stadium.
The refurbished stadium will host five pool matches and two quarter-final matches for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
The redevelopment has significantly increased the stadium's permanent capacity to 38,628, bringing it up to international standard. Temporary seating will boost the capacity to nearly 45,000 for RWC 2011.
Chief Executive of RNZ 2011, Martin Snedden, said AMI Stadium is definitely "right up there" as a venue for Rugby World Cup 2011.
"These redevelopments ensure the stadium will be a showcase venue for Rugby World Cup 2011. The venue has a long history of hosting top-quality events, but the upgrades will leave a lasting legacy for New Zealand sport and the people of Canterbury to enjoy for years to come."
There will be a free open day for the public of Canterbury this Saturday from 10am to 4pm.
The original stadium dates back to 1880 when the Canterbury Cricket and Athletics Sports Company purchased ten acres from the estate of Benjamin Lancaster of Bournemouth, England. The sports ground adopted the name Lancaster Park and was officially opened in 1881.
In its early years, Lancaster Park hosted a variety of sporting events including trotting, cycling, swimming, tennis and even hot air ballooning. Other notable events include visits by Pope John Paul II (1986) and Queen Elizabeth (1963).
It was renamed Jade Stadium in 1998. In 2007, it was renamed AMI Stadium after the insurance company acquired the naming rights.