We have a unique opportunity in the City of Students

Dunedin/Ōtepoti, situated on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island and host to six group matches of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™, was the second stop in the country for a FIFA delegation, visiting each host city of next year’s tournament. A meeting with Football South’s CEO Dougal McGowan and Operations Manager Julia Connor and a tour of Logan Park Dunedin North kicked off the itinerary. The turf and synthetic pitch, divided into two and funded through FIFA’s Forward Programme, is used by local teams, male and female, for practice games, youth development and community coaching. It also acts as the home training ground of Southern United’s women's team, winners of the National league in 2021. The FIFA contingent watched several matches underway at the facility and discussed the excitement among the local football community at the prospect of the City of Students, as Dunedin is best known, hosting FIFA Women’s World Cup matches.

Dunedin Stadium, the only fully roofed natural turf stadium in the world, was the next stop, where Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins, Joy Lanini, Manager Community Development and Events Dunedin City Council and Terry Davies, General Manager Venues Dunedin showed the delegation the facilities available at the 28,500-seat venue. Constructed with a roof covered with 20,500m2 of ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) transparent roofing material (also used in the Eden Project, England and the Beijing Cube, China). The roof allows for a special air flow into the stadium meaning that pitch grass grows extremely fast and must be cut daily. The roof construction also provides an enviable acoustic offering, meaning fans can hear action on the pitch clearly as well as keeping them cool in summer and warm in winter.

The pitch is real grass turf, strengthened by synthetic grass fibres injected deep into the soil. This increases the hard-wearing capability, allowing 3 times the use of natural grass field. It is serviced by 2.5 km of drainage, 15 km of irrigation and 40 automated sprinkler heads, with water being caught on the roof and funnelled back to the pitch. Three different types of seed make up the grass along with 3200m3 of sand, soil, and compost in three different layers. After the tour of Dunedin Stadium, discussions took place about how to best promote the FIFA Women’s World Cup in the city, which is well respected regionally for its sports, music, and entertainment events at the stadium. So much so that from 2015-2018, it was ranked tenth in the world for selling concert tickets. Speaking at the conclusion of the group’s meetings Fatma Samoura said: “As a UNESCO city of literature and home to the University of Otago, the oldest university in New Zealand, we have a unique opportunity here in the City of Students for fans and teams to discover the ambiance and culture of the region and the first people of the lands (mana whenua). We are looking forward to leveraging the excitement around the tournament among local people to create a ten-day festival of football and culture.”