A whole new era of prosperity seems to be riding on how well Hawke's Bay comes through tonight's Rugby Championship test in Napier.

Host-city mayor Bill Dalton, whose council has a stake of up to $250,000 in a venture number-crunchers predict will have an immediate $5 million economic spinoff for the region, says it's about establishing the century-old McLean Park as a "premium" venue for international events, so there will be more.

"What we are saying is it's a fantastic and very significant venue," he said last night between engagements on the eve of the All Blacks' match against Argentina in front of a sellout crowd of more than 22,000 - the biggest to watch a single sports event in Hawke's Bay in 45 years.

Already on the radar is an NRL league match next winter, with council chief executive Wayne Jack in "serious discussion" with clubs to secure the game.


Hawke's Bay Tourism general manager Annie Dundas was last night also out taking in the growing rugby-city atmosphere, and also keen for the spinoffs of the weekend to include a match in Napier on the Lions' tour in 2017.

"We think the estimate of a $5 million spinoff is about right," she said. "We've been told about 6000 tickets were sold to people outside Hawke's Bay, most of the accommodation providers are full for the two nights, and the cafes ... they're all pretty busy."

Hawke's Bay is an events destination in the tourism market, she said. "We certainly want more big events."

Hastings Deputy Mayor Cynthia Bowers was sure there were spinoffs for Hastings and believed the days when the Bay's twin cities seemed to compete for events were gone.

"In terms of Hawke's Bay, I think it's about focusing on one good venue for whatever event it is," she said, recognising there had been competition in the past in vying for big rugby matches.

"I think we each have to play to our own strengths," she said.

The hospitality, accommodation and transport providers are expected to be the most immediate beneficiaries of the big weekend, with the smiles of bar operator Dennis Buckley, hotel proprietor Rodney Green and Hastings Taxis manager and driver Kevin Gosling almost audible last night as they spoke about the prospects.

The proprietor of bar and restaurant Shed 2 and adjoining restaurant Mexi Mama in Napier's West Quay fanzone, Mr Buckley has had All Blacks among the customers during the week, and expects today to be so busy he may not get to the game.


There were big bookings for dinner last night and at least six buses were scheduled to ferry people from the Quay to the game tonight, but one thing he hadn't considered was the numbers still wanting to watch on TV from the comfort of the bar.

"I think a lot of Hawke's Bay people didn't get tickets when they first went on sale," he said. "So they missed out on all the covered seats."

Today is expected to be one of his busiest this year, and it will continue tomorrow, when the Pumas team are "in for dinner".

Mr Green's Bluewater Hotel a few hundred metres away has such guests as All Black great Sir Colin Meads and 1960s teammate Earle Kirton, who has also been an All Black selector and a broadcasting personality, among a full house of about 150 guests in 50 rooms.

The benefits further afield in the region were highlighted by Mr Gosling, who said his company's eight vans were all booked to take Hastings fans to McLean Park. Every driver and vehicle available would be on the road during the night.