By Carly Udy
Super 14 fans will have their choice of more than 8000 covered seats when the Chiefs and Stormers battle it out at Blue Chip stadium this Easter.
An enormous stadium roof costing $2.5 million is now being erected and will eventually cover all the seats except the area under the corporate boxes.
These seats were difficult to cover from a manufacturing perspective and are in a prime viewing location for television cameras.
More than 15,000 seats at Baypark will eventually be covered before the Air New Zealand Cup - the country's new provincial rugby competition - kicks off in July.
The back supports for the roof are now in place and steel framing has begun on a section of the roof, which will be finished in six weeks' time.
Netting and the actual rooftop is being rigged into place this week and will be followed by the installation of noise control padding.
Blue Chip Stadium chief executive Sharon Jackman said the roof was the finale in a lengthy process to bring national and international rugby matches to Tauranga.
Getting lights erected last year, as well as installing new changing rooms and an administration block, has taken three years all up. The roof itself has been a two-year project.
All up, $5.5 million has been spent.
Mrs Jackman said Blue Chip Stadium aimed to secure games in the 2011 Rugby World Cup and had submitted venue qualifications, which she believed met the stringent guidelines of the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU). Their first goal however, was to lure more Super 14 games to Baypark. "We hope the Chiefs event will be so successful for them they'll want to bring a Super 14 game back here and that they won't want to look beyond us," she said.
"We've had pre-season games but never had a full Super 12 or 14 game. We're very excited and have had a number of phone calls from the public."
Mrs Jackman said the roof would provide significant benefits for patrons and the community alike.
The sound coming from the stadium was expected to be less and patrons would also benefit from having dry seats.
Mrs Jackman said no future projects were in the pipeline for the stadium apart from re-grassing the outside of the speedway arena in the off-season. "We'd really like to focus on core business rather than a construction site," she said.
By Carly Udy