Whangarei is the northernmost city in New Zealand, with a population of 80,000. The building is located on the busy road between the centre and the port areas of the city.
Driven by the need to provide a new stadium for 3000 spectators at Okara Park in the city in readiness for the Rugby World Cup in 2011, the brief for this Centre was to provide much more than facilities just for rugby. Also included in the building is office space for sports and related community bodies, conference areas and reception spaces. Unsurprisingly the budget for the project was extremely tight.
The site design exploits and reinforces the natural amphitheatre of Okara Park. The original pitch was moved approximately 15 metres towards the northern terraces, and the new south stadium, with a gentle curve on plan, was brought closely in to the field of play to define an intimate arena.
The primarily locally obtained materials of the building are woven together to create surfaces that slide and forms that have deep recesses to house exposed services. With simple exterior lighting the building comes dramatically to life in the evening.
The building pioneered the use of a tension membrane canopy for a rugby stadium in New Zealand. This solution has a number of advantages compared with a conventional steel-clad roof – better durability, reduced energy consumption with diffuse natural lighting, performance in fire, and the reduction of glare and rain noise.
Two-tiers of stadium seating (rather than a single tier) were adopted to maximize the use of the gathering spaces and corporate boxes, making better connection between seats and the hospitality functions immediately behind them. Through the combination of the curved plan and tiered section, all seats in the new stand have an excellent view of the field.
The Northland Events Centre is a multi-functional community building with an enduring future beyond the 2011 Rugby World Cup.