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Wellington plans big party for Barmy Army fans

12 May 2005

Wellington plans big party for Barmy Army fans

Wellington is planning to party like its never partied before when the British and Irish Lions tour hits town says Mayor Kerry Prendergast.

“It’s going to be the biggest celebration of rugby and fun the Capital has ever seen but it’s a huge logistical exercise and Council staff are working around the clock to make sure the city is ready.”

“Bar owners should start thinking about warming up their beer and restaurant owners should be stocking up on mushy peas, laver bread, and, of course, Irish stew. We want the Barmy Army to feel sort of at home.”

Courtenay Place (from Cambridge Terrace to Taranaki Street) will be turned into a party zone during the weekend of the test match and closed to all vehicles from 7pm Friday 1 July to 8am Sunday 3 July. Tory Street (Tennyson Street to Wakefield Street), and Blair and Allen Streets will also be closed to ensure pedestrian flow. “This will turn Courtenay Place into a 24 hour entertainment zone – the Council is organising live music throughout the day to help people get into the party mood.

“Realistically the closure for the test match is necessary because of the sheer numbers of people expected in the city for the games. We’re planning for 65,000, including locals, in the central city for the test match on Saturday 2 July. A number of bars and cafes have applied for liquor licences so they can operate on the footpaths outside their premises. This means less room on the footpaths for pedestrians, hence the need to close the roads off and turn them into an entertainment area.”

Council staff are looking at the possibility of installing marquees across Blair and Allen Streets. Additional toilet facilities will be in place and, to make sure everyone gets home safely, temporary taxi stands will be established close to Courtenay Place. Police will operate a satellite office in the closed-off Courtenay Place area.

The Wellington Lions vs the British and Irish Lions game on Wednesday 15 June is expected to attract up to 50,000 people into the city but is not expected to stretch resources to the same extent as the test match as many Lions fans are only following the tests and fewer special arrangements are required.

Liquor bans are likely to be in place for both games. The Council will vote next Thursday for a special liquor ban in the central city, from noon on Wednesday 15 June until 6am on Thursday 16 June. An extended ban for the test match is also recommended from 5pm Friday 1 July to 6am Sunday 3 July. The liquor ban means that it is prohibited to possess or consume alcohol in public places in the central city.

“Police support the Council’s proposed liquor bans,” says Mayor Prendergast. “We want people to enjoy themselves but in a safe way. People need to be aware that they cannot leave a bar’s licensed area with alcohol. The ban will include the closed-off area in the Courtenay Place precinct.” Parking is expected to be at a premium for the test match and the Council is encouraging people to take public transport and leave their cars at home. “We’re asking that people try and leave their cars at home and take the bus or train instead,” says Mayor Prendergast. “The road closures combined with the influx of people in the city could mean traffic delays.”

In partnership with the Rugby Union and Lions Hospitality 2005, the Council is organising a family friendly alcohol-free event to watch the test match at the Michael Fowler Centre from 5.30pm to 11.30pm. It will cater for up to 2200 people and include entertainment, games and activities for children, and giveaways.

The Council is working in partnership with NZRU, Tourism New Zealand and Positively Wellington Tourism to encourage the city to “Black Out” in support of the All Blacks.

“I know Wellingtonians will give the Barmy Army and all other visitors to the city a warm welcome but that we will be staunch in our support of our boys,” says Mayor Prendergast. “I’m encouraging all Wellingtonians and Wellington businesses to get behind the All Blacks and decorate their premises in black.

“The tour will create a significant spike in visitor spending in Wellington and will showcase our city to thousands of people, creating long-term word-of-mouth advertising. It’s critical that we showcase Wellington in the best possible light, make sure everyone has the best time possible, and comes back to visit Wellington again.”

Lions fans are expected to start making their presence known in Wellington from early June. Up to 10,000 individuals without tickets in Wellington for the 15 June game, and around 20,000 people without tickets for the test match, are expected to flood into the city’s bars and cafes.

Positively Wellington Tourism Chief Executive Tim Cossar says preparation for the tour is key. “Because we don’t know exactly how many are coming, tourism, hospitality, public transport, and retail businesses should prepare for the maximum number. They should ensure they’ve got plenty of staff available, and remind staff of the importance of being friendly and helpful. Businesses should also look at staying open longer at night and weekends particularly downtown businesses which are likely to get a lot of foot traffic.

“We’re expecting Lions fans and other visitors to be hungry and thirsty and we’re advising businesses to have lots of beer and food available - particularly Guinness and English-style food. It also wouldn’t hurt to lay on lots of live entertainment and screenings of sports games.

“From what we know about how much an All Black test brings to the city, and looking at the Sevens and Super 12 games, we estimate the Tour will bring around $10m to $15m to the city. That's bearing in mind that there will be lots of international visitors who tend to spend more. However, we'll have a much better idea after the Tour.”


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