This series will showcase the people who make Christchurch tick, give voice to the region’s diverse communities, and debate how the city can best accommodate its growing number of residents while examining the issues facing the city. Video / NZ Herald
Richie McCaw has played at every major rugby stadium in the world including Twickenham, Millennium Stadium and Stade de France.
Lancaster Park was his home ground during a golden age as a Crusader captain. But this stadium has been erased from the Christchurch landscape.
With that done, McCaw is excited about the prospect of Te Kaha, Canterbury’s multi-purpose arena, getting the green light in this week’s crucial vote at Christchurch City Council.
“I think for the area and all the other things it could offer the city, we’re all going to look back and say, ‘Damn, it was well worth making that hard call,'” McCaw said.
Crusaders chief executive Colin Mansbridge has implored Christchurch City Council to keep their stadium promise. He said stopping was not an option and it wouldn’t be much better to take a break and re-evaluate the project.
McCaw, who retired from rugby when the All Blacks won the Rugby World Cup in 2015, said: “If the stadium gets council approval to move forward, we will revisit that moment in years to come and we’ll say, ‘Thank God people were able to make that decision.
The former Crusaders captain led the Christchurch-based franchise to three championships in 2005, 2006 and 2008, and made the playoffs from 2002 to 2004, all played at Lancaster Park.
“There are some pretty cool memories there,” McCaw said.
“I guess the way they had laid out the stadium, it was quite advanced for its time, leading up to the World Cup, it was a pretty magical place to play from a Crusaders perspective.”
After the Christchurch earthquakes, Lancaster Park was deemed unsafe and eventually demolished. The Crusaders moved to Addington and a temporary stadium was built from scaffolding.
With the Rugby Cauldron gone, McCaw said it just wasn’t the same in the temporary facility.
“It’s great to have a place to watch your team, but it just doesn’t give you the same experience you would have or had at Lancaster Park, it’s even hard to compare.”
McCaw has spent the past 22 years in Christchurch, including through earthquakes, and said a new stadium would be a great legacy for the city.
“The things we’ve been through have given these opportunities to have this debate and come up with something for the future, hopefully beyond our generation and the next generation.
“You look at the convention center [Te Pae]and then if you have a stadium, the metro sports center, all those things, you’re like “damn, this is a pretty cool city we live in” after you’ve been through a pretty tough time, that’s where we are at … making the most of what has been discussed. “
The new multi-purpose indoor arena with a roof was originally slated for $473 million. An additional 5,000 seats, bringing capacity to 30,000, were added at an additional cost of $50 million. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, construction costs have soared, adding another $150 million, to $683 million.
The arena would be used not only for sports matches, but also for concerts, trade shows and exhibitions. The roof is crucial.
“The design that I saw, from afar, looks pretty amazing.”
“Taking the weather away, not just for rugby but for whatever you have there, will be a game changer, especially in the middle of winter at this time of year, at night playing rugby, especially he will have a different feel under the roof.
“Compare it to Dunedin, it’s really exciting to go there and play.”
McCaw said during the test match in Dunedin against Ireland this weekend, despite all the rain, the ball will be dry under the roof.
“You get a show that people love to watch, it’s a bit hotter and those things make it a whole different occasion.”
If councilors agree to go ahead with the stadium project, it could take another four to five years, which McCaw is willing to wait.
“We’re going to have to, aren’t we, but if we get something that we’re really excited about, you support it, don’t you?
“Ideally he would have been here sooner, but if anyone can give the tick, I guess there’s a little way to wait, but man, it’ll be cool once he’s up and running.”
The council will vote on pausing, stopping or continuing the stadium project at a council meeting this Thursday at 10am.
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