15 May 2016
The sold-out Penrith Panthers match against the New Zealand Warriors has been hailed as an overwhelming success by organisers and city officials.
Nearly 18,000 spectators crammed into AMI Stadium on Saturday to see the Panthers beat the Warriors, but the Carnival of Rugby League dominated the city for most of the week.
An estimated 6000 fans from outside Christchurch poured an expected $3 million into the city’s economy, in what is set to become the first chapter of an annual highlight on the city’s calendar.
Match organiser Justin Wallace and his business partner Craig Douglas said they were exhausted and proud of what they had created.
“The planning for this event started two years ago with a wild idea and we have now created a fantastic weekend, thanks to both teams, 18,000 fans and the support of the Christchurch City Council, Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism and Christchurch International Airport,” said Mr Wallace.
Mr Wallace said the Panthers had enjoyed their stay in Christchurch, their “home away from home” and the management team had told him that the city and the event had exceeded all their expectations.
We received many compliments about how accommodating and well-organised everyone in Christchurch had been and they were particularly impressed with the enthusiasm of the Christchurch people, at the match and in the lead-up.Justin Wallace, Match Organiser
“We received many compliments about how accommodating and well-organised everyone in Christchurch had been and they were particularly impressed with the enthusiasm of the Christchurch people, at the match and in the lead-up,” said Mr Wallace.
The Panthers and the Warriors had been working hard all over the city throughout the week, with numerous school visits and junior league clinics and Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said that the success really vindicated the city’s decision to back the event.
Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism made it possible for “The Footy Show” star to experience the best parts of the region, including a helicopter ride with Richie McCaw, which will feature in his weekly segment Beau Knows Christchurch on Wednesday.
Christchurch International Airport has been the other major supporter of the match and chief executive Malcolm Johns said extra activity at the airport and the additional visitors from Australia and the North Island arriving for the game was a great boost for all concerned.
“We definitely witnessed a considerable influx of visitors at the airport in Warriors and Panthers jerseys,” said Mr Johns.
“Christchurch International Airport is a big supporter of events that bring people into the city and locals out for excitement and entertainment and this match clearly ticked those boxes.”
The Panthers will return next year, though the time of the fixture will not be known until later this year.
Mr Wallace hoped they could secure another game earlier in the year to avoid the coldest months and again hoped for an afternoon kick-off.
“The timing of the match played a big role in families being able to bring kids and turn the match into a wonderful community event.”
He added that the preparation for next year’s match had already started.
“The Panthers said that they want to take this to another level next year, by bringing some of their home ground show across from Penrith and get even more involved in the community.”