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Hagley Park in Christchurch will become a giant fan zone and festival area during Rugby World Cup 2011 providing a central venue for rugby-mad Cantabrians and visitors keen to be part of the major event.
Fans will be able to watch games live on giant screens and an events village will provide a city entertainment hub by day and night - with concerts, market stalls, information centre and rugby nostalgia zone.
Additional government funding, on top of existing grants for the REAL New Zealand Festival, has been provided to ensure Christchurch has a welcome focal point after the February earthquake - which forced scheduled RWC matches to be transferred to other centres.
The new temporary entertainment and performance events village will be set up in North Hagley Park near the centre of Christchurch and, as well as being party central for RWC 2011, it will also provide a venue for events in the lead up to tournament.
Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism chief executive Tim Hunter says the ‘Fan Zone and REAL New Zealand Festival Area’ will give people a place to gather and celebrate their passion for rugby.
"Canterbury is at the heart of rugby in New Zealand and it was a big blow when we lost our Rugby World Cup matches.
"We’re really hoping that fans coming over to New Zealand for Rugby World Cup will still keep Canterbury on their itineraries because no other region has such a rich rugby heritage and there is no where they will receive a warmer welcome than here," Hunter said.
Fan zone fun
Hunter says there will be fun stuff happening in the fan zone and festival area all the time, and that it will be a very vibrant, exciting place to be - for die-hard rugby fans as well as those who are not necessarily interested in the sport.
Entertainment will include live concerts and shows, and there will be markets stalls selling food as well as local goods.
An i-SITE Visitor Centre in the zone will provide visitors with the information they need to make the most of their stay in Canterbury and the South Island.
As well as being able to watch Rugby World Cup matches live on giant screens, fans will have the chance to remember past rugby heroics in an inflatable ‘World Ruck’ dome - divided into nostalgia zones capturing Christchurch’s rich rugby history.
Martin Snedden, chief executive of Rugby New Zealand 2011, says it is critical that Christchurch stays connected to RWC 2011.
"It’s clear that the Fan Zone and wide ranging REAL New Zealand Festival events will be a fantastic way for the event to come to life in the city," Snedden said.
Government funding will also help a travelling fan zone for east Christchurch. Each weekend during the tournament, the fan zone will take music, entertainment and live rugby to a new venue in the east of the city.
Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said that while Christchurch no longer had any Rugby World Cup games there, it didn’t mean people couldn’t have fun or support the All Blacks and also be great hosts for the international visitors.
He said the North Hagley Park events village would also support a wide range of events including the Christchurch Arts Festival, TV2 Kids Fest, the International Jazz Festival, New Zealand Cup and Show Week, and the World Buskers Festival.
The North Hagley Park venues would be available for events before Rugby World Cup, during and into 2012, which was great news because the city was short of venues since the earthquake, Brownlee said.
REAL New Zealand Festival
Christchurch will benefit from REAL New Zealand Festival events touring nationally including the REAL New Zealand Music Tour of rock bands.
The city has planned a number of events to get people limbered up for the Rugby World Cup, including New Zealand’s biggest children-focused festival - KidsFest - with 140 different events, starting in July.
Also during July, both the contemporary steel and glass Christchurch Art Gallery and the heritage neo-Gothic stone Canterbury Museum, housing some of New Zealand’s most precious collections, will re-open.
Christchurch Arts Festival
From mid-August to the beginning of October, the city will host its biennial celebration of the arts, the Christchurch Arts Festival - incorporating theatre, music, dance, exhibitions and debates. Festival organisers have reworked the programme to coincide with RWC 2011.
BodyFest - a festival of dance and physical theatre - will also be staged in the city at the same time as the Rugby World Cup, along with REAL Canterbury Market Days and the Southern Opera Gala Concert.
Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism says there’s accommodation available within the city and in the outlying regions, and it wants to encourage travellers to come to Christchurch for what promises to be an exciting time ahead.