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18 May 2017
Thousands of rugby supporters are expected to gather at Wellington’s official waterfront Fan Zone when the British & Irish Lions hit Wellington – where fans can also become part of a Guinness World Record attempt.
Up to 20,000 Lions rugby fans will descend on Wellington for what will be two full houses at Westpac Stadium when the Hurricanes play on Tuesday 27 June, and the Lions are hosted for the critical second test match against the All Blacks on Saturday 1 July.
Warrick Dent, General Manager of Major Events at the Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency (WREDA) which is leading Wellington’s Lion’s celebrations, says they’re going all out to ensure Wellington rates highly in visitors’ New Zealand experience.
“We want to ensure Wellington provides the best destination experience fans have whilst here for the tour.
“That means not only offering traditional warm Wellington hospitality but also adding in more unexpected and creative activities that will wow visitors and make it a great week for locals too.”
Party central will be the official Fan Zone located at Odlins Plaza near Frank Kitts Lagoon. On both match days all the rugby action will screen live on a big screen. A bar and boutique food trucks will keep fans fed and watered.
The waterfront Fan Zone is family-friendly and supervised, with live music on game days until match time. After the matches it becomes a supervised party zone, with live music through till 1am.
Through Thursday to Saturday, the Fan Zone will be a hub of fun activities for visiting fans and locals alike.
Te Wharewaka o Poneke will run 45-minute Express Waka Rides on Wellington harbour throughout the week created specifically for the tour. Thursday 29 June will be Movie Night at the Fan Zone. Screenings will run at 6pm & 8pm, with movies to be announced in the weeks before.
That evening the Wharewaka hosts Pint-Sized Beervana; a smaller version of New Zealand’s premier craft beer extravaganza. The event will see 10 breweries matched to five of Wellington’s top restaurants who will create a taste of Wellington with a British twist. Tickets for the two and a half hour event, which include all beer samples and food, will be on sale next week.
On Friday, June 30 the Fan Zone will play host to an attempt to set a Guinness World Record for the most people simultaneously playing Coin Rugby. Volunteer players, armed with a $2 coin to play the game, are welcome. Rugby shorts, a serious game face and headgear are encouraged but not essential.
On Test day, Saturday 1 July, the Fan Zone kicks off with a massive lunchtime hangi, designed to feed authentic Kiwi kai to up to 300 hungry fans. This will be the official grand opening of Te Wharewaka o Poneke’s permanent hangi pit, set to become fixture on the Wellington waterfront.
On the evening of both games, a spectacular Fan Trail will lead people from the Fan Zone to Westpac Stadium. The Fan Trail will showcase Wellington’s creativity and tech excellence, with light shows and projections. The theme of Matariki is integrated throughout the Fan Trail, from illuminated poi and other Pasifika performances to Matariki star imagery in the digital and light displays.
Mr Dent, from WREDA, says the downtown activities are about bringing rugby fans together.
“A Lions Series is a special occasion – a hard fought contest on the field, and a warm welcome across the country. We know from the 2005 tour how strong the camaraderie is between the Lions fans and their Kiwi counterparts, and we look forward to them coming together to eat, laugh, cheer and have fun in Wellington.”
Mr Dent says the week will have fun for practically everyone, even non-rugby followers.
“From the light projections and Matariki highlights to the movies, food and music, it’s an open invitation for everyone to enjoy the energy and atmosphere of this once-in-a-decade occasion.”