The stage is set for the Waikato's first major event in over three months with FMG Stadium Waikato ready to host a Super Rugby classic with the Auckland Blues travelling south to face the Gallagher Chiefs in round two of Super Rugby Aotearoa.
With a near sell-out crowd expected, the stadium crew has been working round the clock to make sure Saturday night's game is an extra special one.
Turf manager Karl 'KJ'Johnson is excited to see action back at FMG stadium after spending much of his summer working to replace the stadium's old turf with Desso hybrid turf – a product which includes 5 per cent artificial fibre and has a stabilising effect. FMG Stadium Waikato was the first venue in the North Island to use the Desso hybrid turf.
"I'm so excited for this, it has been over three months for us since we have had a dance; for us this is the dance floor for the city," Johnson said.
"It just brings with it an extra sense of normality and the team here has done a fantastic job in making the stadium ready and we want to present it to the world and get a really decent crowd here."
"Having players like Beauden Barrett and Dan Carter coming down just makes it an extra bit special."
Prior to New Zealand moving into lockdown, Johnson and his turf team had just two days to make sure that the field did not get out of control during the time no one was allowed to care for it.
"We sprayed a growth retardant leading into level four so it actually stopped the turf from growing so when we came back it was not up around the roof tops. We were able to monitor the stadium from our phones at home and operate the irrigation system as well."
"During level three we got Government exemption to come back and do the essential work around the stadium.
Johnson was tight lipped on his prediction for the match, saying as he was from Canterbury it would be good to see Dan Carter even on the bench again.
"I just hope it is a win for all the fans to come back and watch a game of rugby again."
Hamilton City Council general manager of venues, tourism and major events, Sean Murray, said he is expecting an incredible atmosphere at the game and encouraged fans to get tickets early to secure a seat.
"We are anticipating a big crowd, as we know there are lots of passionate Gallagher Chiefs fans who will be thrilled to be back cheering on their team from the stands. Blues supporters are also likely to make the journey down the expressway for the rivalry match," he said.
"Our team and partners are equally as excited to welcome fans back to our venue and to get back to doing what we all love. We've been carrying out a lot of planning and work behind the scenes over the past couple of months in preparation for re-opening our doors to the public."
New initiatives include the introduction of additional cleaners and sanitising stations around the venue, as well as new contact tracing procedures at each gate – with fans advised to purchase tickets online ahead of the game and arrive early on the day to avoid delays.
The venue has also worked alongside their catering partner Montana Food and Events to introduce a new contactless payment system across its retail concessions.
FMG Stadium Waikato Venue Manager Ben Slatter said while work on the contactless payment system was was accelerated due to the pandemic.
"We are confident it will stand up to the demands of an expected bumper crowd this weekend," he said.
Cash out facilities will no longer be available in the stadium.
Chiefs Rugby Club CEO Michael Collins says the excitement is building for members and fans to cheer on their Gallagher Chiefs.
"We are beyond happy to get our members, fans and stakeholders back in the stands to cheer on their Gallagher Chiefs.