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Dunedin's hi-tech stadium open for business

Published: 8:58AM Friday August 05, 2011 Source: ONE News

New Zealand's first covered stadium has officially opened, on time and on budget.

Dunedin's new hi-tech $190 million indoor stadium was opened by Prime Minister John Key this morning.

The Forsyth Barr Stadium is the world's only indoor stadium to boast a natural turf pitch and will replace Carisbrook Stadium.

The opening ceremony included a dawn blessing from local iwi and Key unveiled a plaque featuring a Maori proverb: "My success is not the success of one but the success of many".

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull told TV ONE's Breakfast the facility has an exciting future.

"It's the start of a whole load of opportunities to have events and spectacles here that we couldn't have before when the weather was bad," he said.

Construction of the stadium began in June 2009 with some locals initially sceptical of the project, but Cull said it is important locals support it.

"The product was never in doubt, it was the affordability and financial risk of it," he said.

"We've got it now and we've got this fantastic opportunity to make it work, we need to get on with it.

"We need to keep it full, we need events and games here as often as possible."

Rugby, netball and basketball games can all be played at the stadium and it is hoped it will also attract international acts to perform - helping bring in $24 million to the local economy each year.

Elton John will be the first big name to play in the new venue on November 25. However yesterday there were reports that negotiations with two other big name acts - Meatloaf and Rod Stewart - had foundered despite promoters wanting to perform at the new venue.

Many ratepayers still worry that the price tag is too much for a small city, although two successive city councils approved the project.

Syd Adie from the Dunedin Ratepayers Association said it does not matter how far you spread the loans out, it is still a cost to the ratepayer.

"A Government inquiry needs to be held into the council's activities," he said.

But Stadium Trust chairman Malcolm Farry is convinced the people will love it.

"They'll get a lot of enjoyment out of it. And historically the people will look back and say that was a wise thing to do."

Growing grass indoors

The stadium is the first in the world to be able to grow grass indoors because of its state-of-the-art transparent roof.

The 105-metre roof is made of 20,500 square metres of Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) which allows 90% of the UV light from the sun to pass through it.

Water from the roof is recycled to irrigate the grass, while vents underneath the seats allow for natural air to pass through the stadium.

The roof is 37 metres high above the centre of the pitch, which its designers say is more than high enough to cope with the highest rugby kick. They say the highest observed kick is 29.4 metres.

Interest in the turf in universal and stadium operations manager Coryn Huddy believes it has a lot of potential worldwide.

Stadium's first test

The 30,000 seat stadium will host its first major rugby game on Sunday with the North Otago vs West Coast match in the Heartland Championship.

That's being treated as a tester ahead of the Rugby World Cup where it will host four games, three of which feature England.

Stadium managers are asking fans to arrive early and are apologising in advance for any queues.

Dunedin Venues Management chief executive David Davies told the Otago Daily Times "we will really struggle" if 7000 people turn up within 15 minutes of kick-off.

Food and drink services are also going down to the wire, he said, with two in the north stand to open, but others in the south stand less certain.

He said there had also been problems with the stadium's Eftpos system this week so people should bring cash. Mobile phone signals may also be weakened after a fire in a communications hub last week.

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