NZ Herald

Eden Park CEO Nick Sautner is confident of getting upwards of 25,000 people at the stadium for Sunday’s clash between the Blues and the Hurricanes.

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New Zealand’s move to alert level 1 overnight means restrictions around mass gatherings has been lifted, giving live sport a huge boost ahead of the start of the Super Rugby Aotearoa season this weekend.

Speaking to Newstalk ZB‘s Kate Hawkesby, Sautner said the response after the announcement of ticket sales yesterday was “phenomenal”, and he expects a big crowd of over 25,000 will show up on Sunday afternoon.

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Crowds allowed back for Super Rugby Aotearoa matches as kick-off times pushed back.

“The interest yesterday was phenomenal. We have $20 adult tickets and free kids tickets so we’re very confident there’s interest and people want to experience the park and the national stadium,” he said.

Sautner said the re-opening of live events was huge for his business, which also brings back jobs for several staff.

“Whether it be on match-days with all of our revenue streams that are derived, whether it be from our hospitality programmes, our merchandise, public catering outlets but also our icon partner programmes and our memberships etc.

“It’s vital that we have events. We are an under-utilised asset and the need to actually deliver events is central to our business model.”

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Despite the apparent return to normal, the Eden Park boss admitted that there are still challenges going forward for events like live sport.

“It’s been terribly challenging. We have an important part to play to rebuild the confidence of mass gatherings and be able to deliver best practice.”

Ahead of the Blues’ first return to the field on Sunday, the Highlanders will take on the Chiefs in what will be the first top-class rugby match to be played in front of crowds since the pandemic.

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Highlanders chief executive Roger Clark said he was ecstatic at the prospect of opening the season with full crowds.

“Really, this is only a scenario we have planned for since last week,” he said.

“It is absolutely outstanding. Anyone can come … we are incredibly excited.”

Dunedin Venues boss Terry Davies was also optimistic about the clash against the Chiefs, saying he expects a full house.

The Highlanders face the Chiefs at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday at 7.05pm, while the Blues take on the Hurricanes at Eden Park on Sunday at 3.35pm.

This article first appeared on nzherald.co.nz and is republished with permission.

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