Officially it is the home of cricket. But Durban’s Kingsmead Stadium is presently being converted into a temporary camping site which will house 1000 Australian football fans, due to arrive in South Africa next week.
“They wanted a different experience which would enable them to keep their group together,” said Petro von der Spruy, who is the Project Manager of ‘Camp Australia.’
“We were looking at different sites and decided on Kingsmead because of the facilities that they have and because it’s a walking distance from the Durban stadium.”
Using a cricket ground as a camping site is also a safer option weather-wise, she adds. “The cricket field has a special draining system, so even if there’s heavy rain, the field can be drained within six hours.”
The cricket pitch however will be off limits and has been cordoned off to prevent damage.
The stadium is presently a hive of activity, with hundreds of tents being erected on the field, each of them equipped with two or three steel beds, mattresses, sheets, linen and a rechargeable lamp.
“It’s quite a comfortable set up - like a mini hotel,” said von der Spruy. “We’ll collect the linen and replace it every five days. We also provide them with breakfast daily, and there are vendors on site who will provide other meals.”
The site also boasts internet facilities, mobile showers, toilets and a bar and entertainment area where various musicians including famous Australian rock band ‘Powderfinger’ will apparently perform.
Security is tight, with bio-metric access controls ensuring that everyone who requires access to the stadium is first fingerprinted and entered into a system.
They will start arriving at the camp on 10 June, three days before Australia take on Germany in its first group fixture at the Durban Stadium, and will use it a base for a total of 16 to 20 days, depending on their dates of departure from South Africa. Arrangements have been made for them to travel by coach to Nelspruit and Rustenburg for Australia’s other group stage fixtures, as well as to visit some of KwaZulu Natal’s various attractions, including the Ushaka Marine World and a game reserve.
Implementing the idea for ‘Camp Australia’ has been enjoyable but challenging said von der Spruy. “We couldn’t really contact anyone and ask them how it’s been done in the past, because I think that in terms of erecting a tented camp in a world class cricket stadium, perhaps this is a first.”