More than 250 players, 46,000 fans and 1500 staff will descend on Eden Park for the inaugural NRL Auckland Nines tournament next week. Reporter Lauren Priestley went behind the scenes to see what plans are in place to make the two-day spectacle run like clockwork.
Fans filling the stands at Eden Park next week will be unaware of the flurry of activity taking place below them.
The NRL Auckland Nines is the first non-All Black test match to sell out the park since the 1992 Cricket World Cup, prompting organisers to increase the stadium's capacity with temporary seats.
As of last week less than 1000 tickets remained.
The event has been two years in the making with the last six months dedicated to logistics alone.
But the boardroom hours have paid off, Eden Park Trust chief executive David Kennedy says.
"It's been quite a coup to pull this off.
"Eden Park is really good fun when it's full, the atmosphere and buzz will be great."
The biggest challenge has been finding room for the 16 teams and almost 500 NRL personnel, he says.
While two teams are playing, two more will be warming up for the next game, two gearing up for the game after, two cooling down and eight teams resting in a dedicated players' lounge.
"Having 16 NRL teams in one city at the same time has never been done before. It's provided us with some new things to deal with."
About 1500 staff will be on site and people worried about a repeat of the hour-long bathroom and drink queues at Big Day Out can breathe easy, Mr Kennedy says.
"At peak times there will obviously be small queues but we're a stadium that's designed to accommodate that many people.
"We've had this place full before and we know how to manage it."
Duco Events director David Higgins says the process has involved some hard graft but is worth it.
The company had the idea in early 2012 and fought to get Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development (ATEED) and the NRL on board.
"Ideas are actually the easy bit. The hard part is making it reality.
"I think it will really sink in when I'm standing on the terraces at Eden Park watching the players coming out."
ATEED general manager Rachael Carroll says the event ticked all the right boxes.
Selling out in its first year has blown organisers away, she says.
"Australia is our bread and butter market. We need to quite aggressively reposition Auckland in their eyes and we saw this as an ideal product that would play right into that.
"An event is great for an event's sake but look at all the other things this can achieve for our city."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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