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An international multi-purpose stadium that grew out of the need to replace the capital city's dilapidated international rugby stadium Athletic Park. The 100-year-old rugby ground hosted its first rugby test in 1903 and at times it seemed the facilities had been in place for a century.
Uncomfortably situated on top of a hill it became a natural wind tunnel winning the title of the windiest rugby ground in the world.
When it became obvious that the facility needed to be replaced, rugby and cricket interests met with the major local authorities in the region, the Wellington City Council and the Wellington Regional Council, the latter being a representative body of several city councils in the lower North Island.
This proved a useful liaison because as a regional facility, the WestpacTrust Stadium needed to be funded by local interests, and for major sports events that included sportsfans from the outlying areas of the region, including the Wairarapa, to the north-east, and the Horowhenua, to the north-west.
The new stadium's situation, on disused railways land 1000m north of the central business district of Wellington, was crucial to its success.
The railway link meant that sports fans from the outlying areas could train to cricket and rugby games, leaving their cars behind at their home railway stations. Traffic problems have always been associated with Athletic Park, and to a lesser extent One-Day Internationals at the Basin Reserve.
Considerable lobbying went into the placing of the stadium on the railways site, as a group from the city of Porirua 18km up State Highway One put together a powerful proposal. However, an independent arbitrator, former All Black and the chairman of the Government sports agency, the Hillary Commission, Sir Wilson Whineray, was asked to consider the respective plans and he opted for the Wellington plan.
Partly funded by local government and business interests, the stadium was completed on schedule by the end of 1999 and hosted its first cricket match, when Wellington played Northern Districts in a Shell Cup match on January 4. The game had been delayed a day due to rain.
The first international played on the ground was also affected by rain. The ODI between New Zealand and the West Indies started on January 8 and ended the next day. The fourth match in the five-match series, it was won by New Zealand by eight wickets. Nathan Astle achieved the highest score to date on the ground with 78 not out while Roger Twose scored 68 not out. Scott Styris has the best bowling record with 3-37.
Rain has been an unfortunate companion at the ground as no result was possible between the New Zealand and Australian teams later in 2000.
During the winter, the ground is the home venue of Super 12 rugby's Hurricanes and the National Provincial Championship's Wellington Lions.
[ Profile by Lynn McConnell, 20 October 2000 ]
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