Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: Outdated oval's time is up

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Eden Park's receding seating often leads to disappointment. Photo / David Rowland
Eden Park's receding seating often leads to disappointment. Photo / David Rowland

Great stadiums aren't the only things that make for a great atmosphere.

Brilliant matches are like the best parties - they can spring out of nowhere. Many of my most memorable live sports experiences have occurred in rundown places when a fabulous day or night out was hardly expected.

This includes the old Warrington league ground, one of those places that looked torn down before the bulldozers got there, where "neutral" English fans whipped up an extraordinary atmosphere as the Kiwis almost lost a World Cup game to Tonga in 1995.

Conversely, the most famous stadiums in the world don't always live up to expectations. Old Wembley in north London was hardly a dud, but it was way too big for some of the football games and the Bob Dylan concert I saw there in the 1980s. On a similar note, the well-regarded stadium with a roof in Melbourne produced a strangely sterile feel in more recent years.

Then there's the creme de la creme of footy stadiums, Suncorp in Brisbane, which is so perfectly shaped that it feels more intimate than a 52,000 capacity should.

The old Lang Park had a similar magic, but the new one is something else. I've only been to the new stadium once, for a lopsided disappointment between the All Blacks and Tonga in 2003, but it was unforgettable.

You don't have to be at the ground to get the Suncorp Shiver though - TV reveals the magic, especially for a big game like a State of Origin encounter.

In contrast, my list of disappointments at oval Eden Park and its receding seating - the view distant and the atmosphere consistently non-existent - is lengthy.

There could be a cultural factor, of course, a reflection of weird New Zealand rugby angst and national self-consciousness. But league and football games also die an ugly death there - in my experience the Eden Park crowds most capable of breaking loose have been watching cricket.

Whatever, it's time to get excited, both about building a new stadium and once we get in it. Stirring games and wild crowds feed off each other, and places like high-sided, rectangular Suncorp provide the fertile ground. The closest spectators in Brisbane are just 6m from the sideline, and only half a field away at the furthest point.

That's the goal for Auckland, putting an end to relying on an outdated stadium that starves the senses.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

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Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

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