Wellington's Westpac Stadium looks for more shows and non-sport events as rugby loses its sheen for punters
Competition for Wellingtonians' hard-earned spend on entertainment is stiffening - with shows, gigs and one-off events booting rugby from its perch at Westpac Stadium.
Figures released by the Wellington Regional Stadium - dating from 2000 to last year - show fewer people attending traditional sports events, and substantial increases in the popularity of occasional and one-off events like rock concerts and Beervana.
Comparing figures from 2006 and 2016 illustrates the shift clearly: about 301,000 people attended Super and provincial rugby matches, and the annual Sevens, in 2006, with 101,000 going to concerts and other events. In 2016 that had changed to 160,000 and 250,000 respectively.
Further highlighting the burgeoning taste for non-sport events, like theatre, entertainment and the World of WearableArt, are figures from Venues Wellington - which include the TSB Bank Arena and Michael Fowler Centre - showing an increase of about 10,000 each year for the past three years.
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To arrest the sports decline, while also wanting to cash in on shifting tastes, the stadium, along with local government, are in talks to react to punters' demands, and enhance the stadium's pulling power as an all-round venue.
Wellington deputy mayor Paul Eagle, who oversees the housing, recreation and events portfolio, said the council had been in discussion with the Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency (Wreda) about what motivated people to attend events.
"The first thing is, let's better understand why people are attending events, and why they're not attending events. We're just posing the question and trying to get a better understanding."
Wellington was not the only city having to look at what people would prefer to go to in their spare time, the same pattern was emerging in Auckland, and overseas.
The city still prided itself on being the events capital, but needed to work out what it would take to attract more people to local events, Eagle said.
Wreda's general manager of events, Warrick Dent, said the clearest trend in the last 10 years had been the increasing diversity of events from which Wellingtonians could choose.
"Westpac Stadium is a hugely valuable facility for Wellington. Located alongside transport hubs and in walking distance from major hotels and hospitality districts, it's ideally situated."
Westpac Stadium chief executive Shane Harmon acknowledged the growth in the popularity of non-sport events at the stadium, saying unique and one-off events had proved very attractive.
"The success of concerts, the Edinburgh Tattoo, and others work really well, and are well attended."
However, the decline in sports attendance was starting to arrest, but it was an "extremely competitive and global market".
"Certainly you may look at individual sports and see declines, but the overall picture is healthy," he said.
"Increasing a membership base can insulate against the vagaries of team performance, and both the Hurricanes and Phoenix have made big strides in that area."
After a decade of decline the Hurricanes franchise had seen a marked increase in fan memberships and social media subscriptions, resulting in more fans coming through the gates in the past two years.
Wellington Rugby chief executive Steve Rogers also acknowledged crowds had decreased over time in provincial rugby.
"All sports need to come up with more compelling reasons to attract fans to the ground and we are continuing to work hard in that space.
"People have a lot of choices and television provides a great product."
ATTENDANCE NUMBERS AT STADIUM
Provincial/Super Rugby: 232,226
Exhibitions/other events: 33,486
Provincial/Super Rugby: 135,678
Exhibitions/other events: 90,902
SPORT v SPECTACLES
2001: Sports events pulled in 83 per cent of stadium visitors (17 per cent non-sport events).
2006: Sports pulled in 80 per cent.
2016: Sports pulled in 59 per cent.