|Former names||Rugby Park (1925–99)|
|Location||Hamilton, New Zealand|
|Owner||Hamilton City Council|
|Waikato Rugby Union (2002–present)
Waikato Stadium is a major sporting and cultural events venue in Hamilton, New Zealand, with a total capacity of 25,800. Four areas contribute to this capacity: The Brian Perry Stand holding 12,000, the WEL Networks Stand holding 8,000, the Goal Line Terrace holding 800 and the Greenzone can hold up to 5,000 people. The capacity can be extended, however, by temporarily adding 5,000 seats to the Goal Line Terrace area. The stadium, owned by the Hamilton City Council, regularly hosts two rugby union teams:
- The Chiefs in the Southern Hemisphere Super Rugby competition
- The Waikato side in the country's top provincial rugby competition, the ITM Cup
In 1925, Rugby Park opened. In 1930, a rugby union match between Waikato and Great Britain was first broadcast on the radio in Hamilton. In 1937, South Africa visited Hamilton in front of a then record crowd of 13,000. One of the most memorable games at the ground was in 1956 when Waikato beat the visiting Springboks Rugby team with over 31,000 people in attendance. In 1958, Rugby Park commenced the upgrade of a new grandstand which opened in 1959. In 1981, Rugby Park hosted part of the infamous 1981 Springbok tour where the match was cancelled due to the pitch being invaded by protesters. 1987 saw Rugby Park host its first Rugby World Cup match, Fiji v Argentina.
In 1996, the Waikato Regional Sports and Event Centre Trust were formed as it was decided that the city required a new sports stadium to attract more sports fixtures and events. The city of Hamilton announced plans to replace both Rugby Park and the city's major cricket venue, Westpac Park, with a single large oval stadium at the Rugby Park site. However, this was reconsidered upon a funding of only NZ$270 million in funding, far short of the estimated NZ$520 million cost. It then decided instead to rebuild and modernise both stadiums on a smaller scale, reducing the total cost to NZ$30 million. In 2000, the construction of Waikato Stadium commenced, and in 2002, Waikato Stadium officially opened with a Super 12 rugby match between the Chiefs and Crusaders.
Waikato Stadium is a multi-purpose facility, though used mainly for rugby union. As many sports fields in New Zealand are multi-purpose (namely serving rugby union and cricket), the Waikato Stadium is often regarded as one of the best pure rectangular stadia for football-based sporting codes in New Zealand. It is the home field of the Waikato ITM Cup team, the Chiefs team in the Super Rugby competition and, on occasion, has hosted international fixtures for the New Zealand All Blacks. It has also been the home ground for Waikato FC in New Zealand Football Championship (NZFC) and has been used for FIFA age-group World Cups. It has infrequently hosted matches for the New Zealand Warriors rugby league team in the National Rugby League (NRL) competition. Waikato Stadium also caters for private functions and events within its many different facilities. Such services include: Gallagher Lounge, Bronze Lounge, Genesis Energy Lounge, Radio Sport Lounge, Clarke Lounge, Network Lounge, Boardroom and TV Commentary Room.
Waikato Stadium (then known as Rugby Park) was host to one of the matches during the 1981 Springbok Tour. However, the game against Waikato was called off in front of a full house at Rugby Park. A pitch invasion by several hundred anti-tour protestors and rumours that a light aircraft had been stolen from Taupo and was headed for Rugby Park proved too much for the authorities.
Since 2002, Waikato Stadium has been host to a variety of events ranging from sporting events to cultural events. This includes: Men’s and Women’s International rugby, NPC rugby, Kingz and Wellington Phoenix football, Impact World Tour, Habitat for Humanity, Super 12 rugby, Summer Jam, Volcanic Paintball, Crusty Demons, Super 14 rugby, WIPSEC Cultural Concert, Regional/National Marching Championship, NRL New Zealand Warriors, Waikato FC NZFC matches, Kiwi Bowl Gridiron and International football.
It was one of four host stadiums of the 2008 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup, hosting six group matches and two quarter-finals. Waikato Stadium also hosted three pool matches for the Rugby World Cup 2011 — Wales vs. Samoa, Wales vs. Fiji, and New Zealand vs. Japan.
- About the stadium
- Waikato Stadium. (2009). History. http://www.waikatostadium.co.nz/page/pageid/2145834898/History
- New Zealand History Online. (2007). Tour diary — 1981 Springbok Tour. http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/culture/1981-springbok-tour/tour-diary
- FIFA.com. (2009). Waikato Stadium. http://www.fifa.com/u17womensworldcup/destination/stadiums/stadium=5018646/index.html
- Rugby World Cup Waikato Stadium Guide
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