It's no cheap night out for Hurricanes fans

SAM BOYER
Last updated 05:00 23/02/2013
Evan Belford
DIEGO OPATOWSKI/Fairfax NZ
FAITHFUL SUPPORT: Evan Belford with daughter Briana and his young son Liam.

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Watching the Hurricanes live at Westpac Stadium this season, with a bite to eat and a drink, will set you back more than $50.

A burger, some hot chips and a couple of beers on top of even the cheapest adult ticket will cost $52.50. Add them to the cost of a seat on the halfway line, and you're looking at $82.50.

The Hurricanes haven't raised their game-day ticket prices this season, but at $25 for the cheapest spot and $55 for the best seat, they are still the most expensive in the country.

Prices in Australia are much the same - at least for those buying in Australian dollars - but if fans don't mind forking out to get to South Africa, they can pick up a real bargain once they're there.

The cheapest adult game-day tickets - to see new franchise Southern Kings play in Port Elizabeth - are just $4. And you can throw in a burger, a hotdog (they don't offer hot chips) and a couple of beers for $8.70 more.

Season tickets, however, tell a different story. Fans banking on attending all the Hurricanes' and Wellington Lions' home games can make substantial savings.

"The highest category of membership works out to be approximately $20 cheaper per match than buying the individual tickets for all the games in that same section," Hurricanes spokeswoman Bronwyn Williams says.

And Hurricanes children's season tickets are, across the board, the cheapest in New Zealand.

In fact, taking into account conversion rates, they are second only to South African team the Cheetahs, based in Bloemfontein.

"Young fans and families need every opportunity to see their heroes, so we adopted a membership that allows children to head along for less than $5 a game for a year's rugby," Ms Williams said.

A glass of wine is cheaper at Westpac Stadium than elsewhere in the country, but most other food and drink prices are comparable with other grounds.

Prices in Australia are similar for locals, but for Kiwis who follow their teams to Australian stadiums, the costs in New Zealand dollars can pile up.

A burger, some hot chips, a couple of beers and a seat near halfway at the Rebels' home ground at AAMI Park in Melbourne will cost $116.70 - a burger alone will set a travelling Kiwi back $11.30.

The good news of sorts for Kiwi fans is that, if you ignore the obvious cost of travelling to South Africa, your dollar will go a long way.

Where a plastic bottle of beer at Westpac Stadium costs $7.50, a 500-millilitre draught beer at a Sharks game in Durban costs just $2.60.

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The stadium also offers whisky and rum "tots" for $1.60.

Figures for the Western Force have not been calculated. The team will not have a home game until Round 6, while its stadium in Perth is renovated.

'I WORK AND I CAN'T AFFORD A TICKET EVERY WEEK'

The cost of watching live rugby is just too high for many people, says the founder of the Hurricanes' supporters group.

Evan Belford, who founded the Flying Squadron in 2011, said prices at Westpac Stadium were beyond many fans.

"It isn't as accessible any more . . . Even $25 [the cheapest adult ticket price] is a bit steep.

"I work and I can't afford every ticket every week. But I make an effort because it's the team I love."

It wasn't just the ticket price that was out of reach to fans, he said, but the food and drink too.

"You walk out at the end - and [it hurts] especially if it's a loss - and you've just spent all that money. You get a burger, you get chips . . . it all adds up. Nothing is cheap.

"Everyone likes to have a burger and a couple of drinks . . . [but] you've only entered the stadium for five minutes and it's cost you $50."

A survey among Flying Squadron members at the end of last season found ticket prices were a major deterrent to fans watching games live at the stadium, he said.

A cheaper "zoo" section behind the goal lines - like that in Dunedin, where the Highlanders charge just $12.50 - could draw in Wellington's student population and generate bigger crowds, Mr Belford suggested.

Hurricanes spokeswoman Bronwyn Williams said specials would be offered during the season. "In 2012 we ran some successful game promotions and we will look to do these again this season.

"For example, $7 kids' tickets and $19 adult ticket offers were made in 2012 for specific games. When we ran the kids' special we sold over 2000 kids tickets, so it is great that we can introduce these match promotions throughout the Hurricanes campaign."

The Hurricanes are also offering a special family pass for the 4.35pm match against the Southern Kings on Easter Saturday, of $40 for two adults and unlimited children.

- The Dominion Post

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