Why WP Rugby should make Cape Town stadium their new home

2013-03-26 11:36

Since the conclusion of the 2010 FIFA World Cup the City of Cape Town has struggled to make Cape Town (CT) stadium financially viable. Concerts, National Team and PSL games have been the main sources of revenue stemming from the stadium for the city.

Over the past year, in an effort to ensure that the stadium achieves long-term sustainability, Mayor Patricia de Lille has been in formal talks with the Western Province Rugby Union (WPRU) to make CT Stadium the new home of WP Rugby. As expected this has angered many of the Newlands faithful who feel that the heritage of the stadium that has been home to WP rugby for over a century will be forgotten. Furthermore, many question the financial feasibility of the move to Green Point, as the Union already owns Newlands, while they would have to rent CT stadium from the City.

In my opinion a move from Newlands stadium will not only be a financially sensible decision for WP rugby, but also increase the already growing popularity of the sport in the Province.

Here’s why. Firstly, Newlands stadium is nestled in a suburban area, this makes travelling to and from games a nightmare for supporters who have to sit in traffic for several hours; in contrast, CT stadium is linked to a rapid public transport system which includes the central train station, taxi’s and the dedicated MyCitibuses. Secondly, the view that it is not feasible for WP Rugby to rent CT stadium crucially ignores two things; (i) Newlands and the surrounding areas that the rugby union owns can be sold and these funds can be invested with the returns used to cover the rental costs of CT stadium and (ii) Newlands can be redeveloped. The seating capacity can be reduced so that it can host local school rugby tournaments, the 315 executive and corporate suites can be converted into offices and conference rooms and the union can also transform one of the stands into a high-end hotel. These changes will more than compensate WP Rugby for being the anchor tenant at Cape Town stadium. Some of these points have also been highlighted in a recent blog by Johan Fourie

Proponents against the move to Green Point often raise the issue of the reduced number of executive and corporate suites at CT stadium, which are around 100 suites. The City of Cape Town has acknowledged this shortcoming and in its new Business Plan for Cape Town Stadium has highlighted plans to increase the number of suites in level 5, 6 and 7 (page 42).

Furthermore, the seating capacity of CT stadium (55000) is much larger than Newlands (48000) and can be increased if need be. The facilities at the new stadium are world-class; the spectator experience is a lot better and as an added bonus beer is allowed inside the stadium.

Tradition and Heritage are important, but they should not restrict us from growing and moving forward. In 2006, Arsenal moved from Highbury, their home of over 90 years to the new Emirates stadium. This wasn’t because they did not value their history and tradition, but rather they realised that in order for them to grow, they had to move. The same can be said for the New York Yankees with their move from Yankee stadium and also the Brooklyn Nets.

In terms of growth of rugby commercially, which is rapidly increasing in popularity, Newlands stadium is beginning to constrain the union and a move to the bigger, well equipped, world-class Cape Town stadium is warranted.

Follow me on twitter BantuMahali

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