Planned to per­fec­tion

More than 250 play­ers, 46,000 fans and 1500 staff will de­scend on Eden Park for the in­au­gu­ral NRL Auck­land Nines tour­na­ment next week. Reporter Lauren Priestley went be­hind the scenes to see what plans are in place to make the two-day spec­ta­cle run like c

Central Leader - - NEWS -

FANS fill­ing the stands at Eden Park next week will be un­aware of the flurry of ac­tiv­ity tak­ing place be­low them.

The NRL Auck­land Nines is the first non-All Black test match to sell out the park since the 1992 Cricket World Cup, prompt­ing or­gan­is­ers to in­crease the sta­dium’s ca­pac­ity with tem­po­rary seats.

As of last week less than 1000 tick­ets re­mained.

The event has been two years in the mak­ing with the last six months ded­i­cated to lo­gis­tics alone.

But the board­room hours have paid off, Eden Park Trust chief ex­ec­u­tive David Kennedy says.

‘‘It’s been quite a coup to pull this off.

‘‘Eden Park is re­ally good fun when it’s full, the at­mos­phere and buzz will be great.’’

The big­gest chal­lenge has been find­ing room for the 16 teams and al­most 500 NRL per­son­nel, he says.

While two teams are play­ing, two more will be warm­ing up for the next game, two gear­ing up for the game af­ter, two cool­ing down and eight teams rest­ing in a ded­i­cated play­ers’ lounge.

‘‘Hav­ing 16 NRL teams in one city at the same time has never been done be­fore. It’s pro­vided us with some new things to deal with.’’

About 1500 staff will be on site and peo­ple wor­ried about a re­peat of the hour­long bath­room and drink queues at Big Day Out can breathe easy, Mr Kennedy says.

‘‘At peak times there will ob­vi­ously be small queues but we’re a sta­dium that’s de­signed to ac­com­mo­date that many peo­ple.

‘‘We’ve had this place full be­fore and we know how to man­age it.’’

Duco Events di­rec­tor David Hig­gins says the process has in­volved some hard graft but is worth it.

The com­pany had the idea in early 2012 and fought to get Auck­land Tourism Events and Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment (ATEED) and the NRL on board.

‘‘Ideas are ac­tu­ally the easy bit. The hard part is mak­ing it re­al­ity.

‘‘I think it will re­ally sink in when I’m stand­ing on the ter­races at Eden Park watch­ing the play­ers com­ing out.’’

ATEED gen­eral man­ager Rachael Car­roll says the event ticked all the right boxes.

Sell­ing out in its first year has blown or­gan­is­ers away, she says.

‘‘Aus­tralia

is our bread and but­ter mar­ket. We need to quite ag­gres­sively re­po­si­tion Auck­land in their eyes and we saw this as an ideal prod­uct that would play right into that.

‘‘An event is great for an event’s sake but look at all the other things this can achieve for our city.’’

Com­ing to­gether: Eden Park Trust chief ex­ec­u­tive David Kennedy says the plan­ning has been worth it.

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