Ugly stadium still offers sporting heaven

MARC GREENHILL
Last updated 10:16 17/07/2014
AMI Stadium
Joseph Johnson/Fairfax NZ

TOP ACTION: AMI Stadium is a great place to get close to the action.

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OPINION: In this series, we ask people to share their favourite spot. MARC GREENHILL fancies a sporting fix at AMI Stadium.

Let's be honest, the temporary Christchurch stadium is a bit of an ugly duckling.

Exposed foundations, borrowed seats, borrowed lights . . . borrowed grass even. It's exactly what you expected of a facility built on the cheap - if you call $30 million-plus a bargain - in less than 100 days.

I can forgive the over-priced food, generic sponsor's beer (thankfully, now in cans rather than plastic bottles), and the skerrick of shoulder and leg room on offer when seated.

None of that seems to matter on game day if you're a sports tragic. There's so much to like.

Close-quarters action, the horses thundering around the ground in the pre-match and stirring anthem Conquest of Paradise booming. The Maidens . . .

Crusaders game day never gets old in my book.

After the temporary stadium was built, I became a season ticket- holder. A friend had been for some years and I now felt a sense of duty to support both team and the stadium in what had been hard times.

A lot had changed since the quakes, but watching the Crusaders run on to the field in Christchurch again was a comforting piece of normality.

The former AMI Stadium, put permanently out of commission by the earthquakes, had become a terrible venue for spectators. So much concrete, so far from the action in the new stands.

All the arena we came to know and love as Lancaster Park really had going for it was the history. Sir Richard's Hadlee's 400th test wicket, Ranfurly Shield glory and heartbreak - the list goes on.

The need for a mixed-used sports space was a necessary evil but did the fans no favours.

Christchurch's new stadium is the polar opposite.

Sometimes literally, when the temperature drops below zero before kickoff.

Sure, critics will say stadia are cash-draining white elephants. They probably are indeed.

In the stadium's defence, the Crusaders had eight home games this regular season, with average crowds of about 13,000 to 15,000. All up, that's about 120,000 collective bums on seats.

Next week's Super Rugby semifinal is likely to be another sellout. There is no All Blacks test there this year, but England played the Crusaders, and Ireland and France visited in 2012 and 2013.

Add to that football (Phoenix, All Whites and the upcoming Fifa under-20 World Cup), rugby league and motocross.

Ah, sporting heaven.

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