* Eagle admits "it's grim"
* Predictions are that yellow seats will outnumber the patrons again
* Sevens boss coy about revealing ticket sales
Serious concerns have emerged about the future of what used to be a jewel in Wellington's events crown - the annual Wellington sevens tournament.
And Wellington's deputy mayor Paul Eagle, who is publicly leading a desperate rearguard action, has admitted it was only a matter of time before the media started reporting that "sales are grim, the event is dead".
"Look, it's grim reading," Eagle told Radio Sport's Matt Buck, with the two-day tournament just three weeks away.
"But I still think there is an opportunity for repositioning the event. I'm not prepared to let it die just yet."
While New Zealand Rugby owns the tournament, and the city council has drastically reduced its financial commitment, it appears that the local body is leading the fightback.
But a once-booming event looks close to broken beyond repair, its mojo gone and the glory days consigned to history.
Tickets for the two day extravaganza used to be the hottest ticket in town. But Stuff reported that by mid-December, only 1300 tickets were sold for the 34,500 capacity Westpac Stadium.
A NZ Rugby spokesman said the actual number of ticket sales was higher than this and ticket sale numbers were currently running ahead of those at the same time last year.
Suggestions the failing tournament might have to be moved or scrapped were met by NZ Rugby defiance last year, with the March announcement that it would remain in the capital for three more years even though the 2015 tournament was understood to have lost around $300,000, though last year's tournament made a small profit.
Crowds had dropped to 15,000 a day.
Wellington Sevens general manager Steve Dunbar said he did not know the sales figures, despite previously providing pre-event ticket sale numbers. Dunbar said: "Each year we listen to fans and to change the market approach. We are gearing up for that now."
Eagle meanwhile is calling on locals to support the event and is "opening the books" to ideas from the public and promotion professionals.
"I appeal to Wellingtonians to get behind the event. They can remember the old days but there is nothing stopping people from having fun again," he pleaded.
Eagle said Wellington needed to re-establish itself as an events leader - getting the right personalities involved and "hustling" were key ingredients.
"I know Wellingtonians have mixed views on it (but) there are Wellingtonians who are saying we don't want this to die, and that's the audience I'm trying to tap into," he said.
"I can tell you that some of the hoteliers were nervous months ago saying 'how do we do packages and some sort of deals to get people from out of town'."
The council has quit any governance role and provides only "minimal" funding, believed to be about $150,000.
A Rugby NZ spokesman said there was no governance group though the council was represented on an advisory group through the Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency.
Hospitality New Zealand Wellington regional manager Dylan Firth was not expecting a big weekend