Super Rugby final a big pay day for Hamilton
As Waikato prepares to host the biggest game in Chiefs Super Rugby history, a massive economic win is being predicted for the region.
Figures kicked around yesterday suggested the Chiefs' hosting rights for the Super Rugby final could see between $3 and $5 million pass through hospitality balance sheets next weekend.
And it's the Chiefs' opponents, the Sharks, that Waikato fans can thank after their win against the Stormers in Capetown early yesterday morning ensured a Hamilton final.
Franchise boss Gary Dawson wants the entire Waikato region to take ownership of the historic clash in Saturday's final, a game he's calling "the biggest in the franchise's history".
"To be at the final this Saturday night, to see the Chiefs win, that's the sort of thing you will one day tell your grandchildren about," he told Waikato Times yesterday.
Hamilton mayor Julie Hardaker has been advised that accommodation provider's phones have been running red hot with inquires for vacancies.
"Conservatively this final could bring in $3 - $5m in new spend into the Hamilton economy over the weekend," she said.
Hamilton Central Business Association general manager Sandy Turner said the city had never faced such a huge, and lucrative, event.
"This is going to be amazing, we are all so excited and now we are just taking a deep breath and waiting to see what will happen because none of us have ever experienced anything like this before."
The association would be working closely with the Hamilton City Council to make this week a festival of the Chiefs, Mrs Turner said.
"We are going to be working really hard at trying to make a whole carnival atmosphere for the city, with lots of special events," she said.
Ms Hardaker said hosting and entertainment plans would be discussed with various groups today but she looked forward to showcasing Hamilton to the world.
"Everyone who has been to Waikato Stadium will tell you what a fantastic, amazing sports ground it is, and now the rest of the world will see what we all know," she said.
The flow-on effects would be huge, she said. "The hospitality sector in particular will benefit enormously.
"They had a record weekend's trade during the Ireland test and now they get to do it all again.
"The accommodation sector will do particularly well because people will want to come to Hamilton on Friday and soak up the finals atmosphere and stay the whole weekend."
And while the Mayor did not want to talk of a victory parade - "I don't want to jinx things!" - she confirmed the council was looking at a few ways to get the whole city into the spirit of things.
Likely plans would include pre-game entertainment at a Garden Place fan zone, sporting activity for kids and a fan walk from downtown Hamilton to Waikato Stadium, an official countdown to kick-off and city dressing.
Chiefs chief executive Gary Dawson said Chiefs mana was not just limited to the Waikato.
"While the game is being played in Hamilton, we have always prided ourselves on being a regional team," he said.
"This game will become part of New Zealand's sporting history. I think all of NZ is going to be behind us, we have already had so much support from other parts of the country."
It was impossible to underestimate the effort required just to make it to the final, he said.
"To me it's a competition that gets harder and harder each year.
"For the Chiefs to be in the finals, that's huge."
Grabbing a ticket to Waikato Stadium would be like buying a part of sporting history, he said.
"The Chiefs, and Waikato sports in general, have been through some difficult times over the years and this is a change to turn things around," said Mr Dawson.
"Rugby in the Waikato is special. It brings a lot of joy and happiness to peoples' lives at a time when they sometimes don't have a lot to smile about."
Are you travelling home to the Waikato to support the Chiefs in the final? Email us with your plans and messages of support for the team to email@example.com.