WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Canterbury Rugby has expressed disappointment that Christchurch will not host an All Blacks match until at least 2020, prompting further calls for the speedy construction of a new stadium in the largest city in New Zealand’s South Island.
Christchurch has hosted just four internationals in a temporary facility since the 2011 earthquake irreparably damaged Lancaster Park, which was a regular All Blacks test venue.
The city missed out on hosting a British and Irish Lions test earlier this year and New Zealand Rugby has awarded one of the six tests for 2018 to Trafalgar Park, Nelson for the first time.
Canterbury Rugby said on Friday it had been told it would also not be hosting a test in 2019, when the All Blacks will have a greatly reduced home programme because of the World Cup.
“This is disappointing news for Canterbury rugby fans,” Canterbury Rugby chief executive Nathan Godfrey said in a statement.
“We understand that there are clear criteria for awarding All Black games, we need to accept that we no longer meet that criteria with the current facilities and infrastructure — that is just the reality we now face.”
The decision came in the same week that Christchurch City Council released a pre-feasibility study on a new multi-purpose stadium, which would also play host to the eight-times Super Rugby champion Canterbury Crusaders.
The study recommended a covered, multi-use arena covered by a retractable floor with a permanent seating capacity of 25,000 plus 5,000 temporary seats. It would cost about NZ$496 million (279.10 million pounds) to build.
The council has set aside NZ$253 million to cover its half share of the cost.
New Zealand’s ruling National Party said on Thursday it would commit NZ$120 million to a stadium, but it preferred a venue that had a permanent seating for 30,000 fans.
The stadium, which would take five years to build, is the last of the “anchor projects” in the reconstruction of the city after the devastating 2011 earthquake.
“This news is further acceptance that the city will need a world-class venue to attract international entertainment and major sports events, like the All Blacks,” Godfrey added.
“The economic benefits are well documented. This is not about rugby; we are only a part of the conversation.”
All Blacks 2018 test itinerary:
June 9 v France, Auckland
June 16 v France, Wellington
June 23 v France, Dunedin
Aug. 25 v Australia, Auckland
Sept. 8 v Argentina, Nelson
Sept. 15 v South Africa, Wellington
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Nick Mulvenney