Canterbury breezed into the provincial rugby final with a comprehensive win over Auckland on Saturday. I’m not about to turn this blog into a sports one, but it’s worth reporting because of the crowd – or the lack of one. In his report for the paper this morning (which isn’t yet online), veteran sports writer Tony Smith laments the size of the crowd, which was estimated at around 7,000. Most of the usual excuses for small crowds fall down here – it was a lovely day on Saturday, and the game was in the middle of the afternoon – so you can’t blame the cold. The tickets were as cheap as $6 – so you can’t blame the cost. Canterbury were playing their fiercest rival Auckland, who beat them earlier in the season, for a place in the final – so you can’t say the match wasn’t a good sell, at least on paper. And yet the stadium was well under half of it’s capacity of 17,000 people.
I’ve said it a number of times before, but it has to be said again. And again. And again. A $500 million covered stadium in the middle of town would be a folly of the highest order. The theory behind the stadium seems to be “if you build it, they will come”. But the sports administrators of this city need to be able to show that there is a demand for a bigger venue before they go cap in hand to the government and the council for a hand-out. That hasn’t happened. The stadium has already been pushed to the back of the queue of big-ticket rebuild items; I hope that the new council can quietly take this white elephant out behind the barn and put it to sleep in the most humane way possible.