Wellington Phoenix give venue thumbs up

TONY SMITH
Last updated 05:00 24/09/2012
Phoenix fans
DAVID HALLETT/Fairfax NZ

PLEASING CROWD: 7009 fans were at Christchurch's new AMI Stadium to see the Wellington Phoenix and Western Sydney draw 1-1 in a pre-season match.

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The Wellington Phoenix's resident Cantabrian Ben Sigmund says his hometown turned it on again for the A-League club yesterday and has challenged Christchurch to pack the park for All Whites skipper Ryan Nelsen's homecoming.

Phoenix general manager David Dome and Vbase boss Russell Kenny declared themselves "very pleased" with the turnout of 7009 fans for the 1-1 draw with the Western Sydney Wanderers at AMI Stadium.

"Just over 7000 for a pre-season game, we're very happy with that," Dome said. "We like coming down to Christchurch. You guys have done a magnificent job building a stadium like this in three months. The facilities are fantastic and Vbase are a very good organisation to work with."

Dome said the Phoenix had crowds of close to "20,000 and 15,000" for two A-League games against Adelaide United in 2010 and would certainly consider Christchurch for another A-League regular season match in future. But the Phoenix are fully booked this season. They are set to take a game against Perth Glory to Auckland on February 2 after getting 20,000 to an Eden Park match last year and an A-League "regional round" game against Melbourne Heart will be held in Dunedin on March 3.

Sigmund and his former Canterbury United team-mate Jeremy Brockie, who scored the Phoenix's goal, were mobbed by autograph hunters after the match and were last to exit the players' tunnel.

The All Whites centre said the "atmosphere was fantastic".

"It's a nice stadium [with] good fans. I always love coming back down here, it's nice to play in front of friends and family. It won't be long before we're back down here with the All Whites [for the World Cup qualifier against Tahiti on October 16].

"That's a special game because Ryan [Nelsen] will be having his 50th game in his home town. I reckon he deserves a big crowd to come out, as a tribute to him."

Nelsen has never played for the All Whites in Christchurch and has not played here since 1998 when he and Sigmund, then a schoolboy, played in the same Christchurch United defence.

Phoenix and All Whites coach Ricki Herbert pronounced himself happy with the AMI Stadium surroundings and surface.

Kenny said Vbase, who promoted yesterday's game, had introduced a ticket option allowing Phoenix match patrons to get a $5 discount on All Whites' tickets "and a DVD of The Road to the World Cup Finals in South Africa".

"We had eight ticket sellers working after fulltime and people were queuing out there".

He was happy with the "walk-up crowd" of 1500 who boosted yesterday's attendance and said Vbase still had plans to attract the Phoenix and Western Sydney back to Christchurch for an A-League match.

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