Crowd numbers were low for the latest round of sports action at Westpac Stadium, why don't people go? I think there were several problems which were evident last weekend.

Financial cost - Firstly there were two matches on at Westpac Stadium featuring the Wellington Phoenix in Hyundai A-League football action on Friday night and the Hurricanes on Saturday against the Cheetahs. Both of these matches were entertaining games but the cost of going to both games and getting a baby-sitter in for two nights turns it into an expensive exercise. You are looking at about $30 - $40 for an adult ticket and that is before you buy any refreshments. There are also so many home matches in a season of Super Rugby or Hyundai A League that if you attended every match you would need to take out a second mortgage. It can be tough going to the Westpac Stadium every weekend for the past few months. Sometimes you need a bit of variety! There will be a break soon with only the Hurricanes playing at the stadium.

The main reason I didn't attend the Wellington Phoenix on Friday night was because it clashed with the Highlanders Super Rugby match and the New Zealand Breakers NBL basketball finals game. I went to sports bar Four Kings to watch all three at once in relative comfort while downing a beverage or two and a pub meal. It was emptier than I expected given how busy I remember it being in the past for such large sporting nights. It is easier to watch it on Sky television and heaps cheaper.

We must remember that Wellington is a cultural city rather than a sporting city. Many people would rather be watching ballet or sitting in cafes rather than going to the stadium.

It is funny how the weather for once wasn't to blame for a poor crowd at the stadium as it was fine over the weekend. The marketing for the Hurricanes and Phoenix has been better than in the past and both matches were really good games. It also isn't as if the Hurricanes have been underperforming this season for a change!

Why don't you go to the Westpac Stadium? Answer down the side column of my website.

Is it because of the weather? Are there too many games? Is it too expensive? Are there too many other things to do? Is it easier to watch it at home or at a pub? Are there other sports matches or things that clash at the same time? Have your say!

Here is the article which sparked my article!

It was supposed to be a bumper weekend for sport in the capital, but the acres of yellow seats at Westpac Stadium for the Phoenix and Hurricanes games have raised concerns about shifting crowd habits.

Friday night's elimination final between the Phoenix and Sydney FC attracted only 10,000 spectators. At a similar game two seasons ago 24,000 fans showed up.

Then on Saturday just under 12,000 arrived at the stadium to watch the Hurricanes stumble against the Cheetahs, a far cry from just five years ago, when the prospect of average crowds dropping below 20,000 was considered alarming.

Wellington city council sports portfolio leader John Morrison fears there has been a "sea change" among spectators since the economic downturn and the introduction of bigger and better televisions.

"Two things illustrated it to me, the sevens and the Rugby World Cup. The spectator experience and their involvement has got to be good and big.

"I thought the crowds for the Phoenix final would be far greater. It was disappointing, and the rugby was similarly disappointing."

Phoenix general manager David Dome admitted numbers at Friday's game were poor and blamed inadequate promotion by Football Federation Australia, which collects all the revenue from playoff matches.

Because Phoenix games were family-oriented, they sold better when they were played in the afternoon rather than at night, he said.

Hurricanes chief executive James Te Puni said crowd numbers were up on the poor figures of last season, but he acknowledged that more people were watching games on TV and the market for professional sports was a competitive one.

Recent crowds for the Hurricanes contrast poorly with 2007, when the franchise complained of a "disappointing" crowd of 19,600 for a match against the Highlanders.

Mr Te Puni believed there was room for improvement in the service offered at Westpac Stadium, and understood its management were working on it.

"People want the stadium experience with top-quality views, good food and beverage, and a stadium that's easy to get in and out of and reasonable value for money."

Weather also played a factor, and the reality was that people made their own decisions about what events they attended, he said.

"I always say with all these things you can come up with half a dozen reasons why attendance will be down, and they're all right."

Sports fans have complained in the past about the price and quality of food at the stadium, but stadium trust chief executive David Gray rejected this.

Food and drinks were "reasonably priced" and the main reason attendances dropped was a team's performance, he said.

While attendances at the stadium may be poor, Cricket Wellington says numbers have been up 10 to 15 per cent at domestic matches this season, and the Wellington Saints basketball team rarely has a problem selling out the 4500-seat TSB Bank Arena.

Saints general manager Tara Hakiwai said it was easy to convert people to the live-action excitement of a basketball game.

"It's very family-oriented, it's cheap enough, it's nice and warm so you're not going to get the flu."

Wellington sports bars have also confirmed a downward trend in attendances, more noticeable since the euphoria of the Rugby World Cup.

Four Kings manager Cam Scoble blamed a "slight burnout" since the World Cup, and people making careful decisions about which of the many games they would spend money on.

With the past few weeks boasting Hurricanes and Black Caps matches and a Phoenix playoff, most people could not afford to attend them all, or even go to the pub to watch each one, he said.

Chicago Sports Bar general manager Stu MacDonald said crowds were about the same as last year, but definitely down when compared with a few years ago.


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