As Christchurch continues the painstaking process of rebuilding after last year’s destructive earthquake, there are optimistic signs of renewal are emerging across the infrastructure landscape of the southern New Zealand city.

One such symbol is the new Christchurch Stadium, designed by the global sports specialists Populous. Construction of the temporary stadium, on the site of Rugby League Park in Addington, is on schedule for completion in late March, in time for an early game of the 2012 Super Rugby Season.

The stadium, Canterbury’s only outdoor venue for major sporting and music events, is expected to have a life of between three and five years and stadium architects are using fabric and graphics to embrace its temporary nature and give it a special identity.

Populous, which led the design of both the Eden Park redevelopment in Auckland and the new Forsyth Barr stadium in Dunedin, is using its experience with the London 2012 Olympics, and in particular the main stadium, to help create a unique gathering place in Christchurch.

Populous project director, associate principal Daryl Maguire said: “We are working on 35 venues in London for the 2012 Olympics, most involving temporary facilities. We learnt from our work on the new Olympic stadium that clever use of a fabric roof and a stadium wrap (made of strips of boldly coloured material) could help create the drama necessary for such a high profile Event but was flexible enough to be part of the reconfiguration for a more modest building in legacy mode.

“In Christchurch, we are also using fabric for dramatic effect. A  red, lightweight, fabric ribbon - the colour of the famous Rugby Union home team, the Canterbury Crusaders – will be woven  through the scaffolding of the temporary stands to draw people in, create a sense of occasion and excitement,” he added.

The city’s main sporting and entertainment venue, AMI stadium, was among the buildings so badly damaged in last year’s earthquakes, it was unable to host any World Cup Rugby matches, and its long term future remains undecided. But the new 18,000-seater Christchurch stadium, with two partially covered stands, will be the only outdoor venue for major sporting fixtures and concerts for the next few years. It will be flexible enough to be used for rugby league, soccer and concerts, and has the potential to increase its capacity to 25,000 for a major event such as a rugby test match.

New Zealand’s Earthquake Recovery Minister, Hon Gerry Brownlee, inspects construction progress at the stadium regularly, and said Christchurch stadium is an important step towards the restoration of normality to have a venue that catered for first-class sporting matches and entertainment events. The funding for the temporary stadium will be underwritten by the NZ Government, with support from the Christchurch City Council and New Zealand Rugby Union.

Like the turf, much of the infrastructure is being recycled from other venues. There is temporary seating from Eden Park, where it is no longer required following the Rugby World Cup; stadium lights from Dunedin’s Carisbrook ground; toilet and food outlets from Eden Park.

Corporate boxes are being installed into custom designed, lightweight prefabricated buildings which will be lifted into place at the top of the northern stand.  As much as possible, furniture and fittings will also be borrowed from AMI stadium.
This solution gives Christchurch time to properly plan for the long term future of its sporting facilities.

When the future of AMI stadium is eventually decided, the roof can remain in place for the longer term, because it is structurally separate from the stands below, allowing for permanent stands and facilities to be built underneath.

Posted on 10/03/2012