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Eden Park Chief Executive ‘thrilled’ at prospect of again welcoming fans to watch live sport
With New Zealand’s Coronavirus restrictions potentially being further eased next week to allow fans to again attend sporting events, Eden Park Trust Chief Executive, Nick Sautner has advised that he is “thrilled” that the venue may be able to reopen its doors to the public as soon as next week.
Sautner told Australasian Leisure Management that “the possibility of Alert Level 1 could not come soon enough for us with the stadium industry currently in crisis.”
With New Zealand’s major venues having been shuttered since March, Sautner explained “with the majority of industries able to get back up and running in Alert Level 2, it remains an extraordinary time for stadia and we’re sorely missing the unbeatable crowd atmosphere of live sport at Eden Park.
“We’re appreciative of the work New Zealand Government and our ‘team of 5 million’ has done in eliminating the virus from New Zealand and we do understand the importance of getting it right to allow a return to larger events.
“The ceasing of all activity at Eden Park has had a direct impact on every revenue stream including our members and corporate suites, partners, catering, corporate functions, ticketing revenue and our tourism attractions such as daily tours, Staydium Glamping and the Sky Sport Rooftop Tour and Zipline.
“We have taken a number of proactive measures like reducing all salaries and wages, our Board forgoing fees, deferring non-essential activities, reducing contract labour and making some difficult redundancies of very able and talented staff.
“I’m immensely proud of our team in their response to COVID-19 which illustrated their ability to pivot outside of their normal roles and consider how we can give back to our community, as well as create alternative revenue streams during this downturn.”
With New Zealand Rugby having announced its new Super Rugby Aoteorea last week, Eden Park immediately signalled its commitment to hosting The Blues fixtures as part of redefined competition.
Sautner noted “we explored a pilot where we could bring together our members and members from Auckland Rugby and The Blues to acknowledge their unwavering support during this challenging period.”
With the concept centring around Eden Park’s ability to segregate the stadium into blocks of 500 with designated entries and exits, Sautner advised “we had envisaged 10 allocated gates, each able to seat 500 within its zone - with allocated seating, creating a total of 5,000 pax and could arguably increase this to a greater number if initial games proved successful. However, our priority has always been to provide a level of comfort through our robust procedures and a range of operational planning options to enable all fans back to the stadium. However, this now looks like it will be unnecessary, and the news that Alert Level 1 requires no restrictions is welcome.
“We are continuing to work closely with Government and sporting bodies to ensure every necessary measure is in place to welcome eventgoers back to the stadium as safely as possible. The health of our staff, patrons and athletes remains our priority and we’re working to build robust processes including physical distancing, hygiene, screening, enhanced cleaning and sanitation for team areas and trainings, should they be necessary.
“We now have the opportunity to play a pivotal role in rebuilding the industry and providing confidence to event goers given our physical infrastructure and industry leading processes.”
Looking forward, Saunter added “I was talking with a partner in the banking sector last week who mentioned a recent business confidence survey found six out of 10 Kiwis believed rugby recommencing at Eden Park is a sign of life returning to normal. We are committed more than ever to emerging stronger from this pandemic, and contribute to the production of vital industry content.
“It is extremely positive that because of the country’s quick response to COVID-19, New Zealand is in the unique position where it can potentially attract teams and events to be broadcast internationally.”
During lockdown Eden Park won the international award for Product Innovation for our Staydium Glamping experience at the UK’s TheStadiumBusiness Awards while Sautner became a Certified Venue Executive - apparently the first CVE completed in New Zealand.
Sautner concluded “despite the difficult circumstances surrounding the lockdown, our team remain committed to continuing to do what we do best - putting on incredible content at New Zealand’s national stadium for the people of Auckland and New Zealand.”
Images: Blues fans at Eden Park (top) and Nick Sautner (below).
4th June 2020 - New Zealand looks for return of spectator sport from next week
2nd June 2020 - New Zealand Rugby announces details of new domestic competition
25th April 2020 - Eden Park pays special tribute on ANZAC Day
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