I had the privilege today to open yet another new asset for Hamilton.
A wonderful 84-metre long ‘history wall’, celebrating the history of FMG Stadium Waikato has been installed. The wall outside the venue runs along the Tristram St end of the stadium, and below the corporate boxes. And its panels commemorate a fascinating, 100-year journey.
Today I was very pleased to be able to acknowledge and thank FMG on behalf of our city. It was FMG, not the Council, which funded the history wall. Over the years, the city has built a great partnership with FMG which results itself in ‘added-value’ things like this.
It was also fabulous to see representatives from the Waikato Rugby Union, in particular Duane Monkley, Honey Hireme and Regina Sheck who all feature on the wall. Brian and Helen Clarke were also there with the talented Clarke family featuring large on the wall itself.
FMG Stadium Waikato, a key city asset owned by the people of Hamilton has a long history. Today the stadium is managed and maintained on our behalf by H3 – a unit of Hamilton City Council. But its history stretches back to 1921, when the Waikato Rugby Union (then the Hamilton Rugby Union) took a lease on the venue’s site in 1921.
Following the development of its rugby fields, Hamilton’s ‘Rugby Park’ was formally opened in 1925 (although players had to wait until 1929 for hot showers to be installed!)
Now, more than ever, we appreciate places like FMG Stadium Waikato. This stadium means something to our city and the wall shows it has done for a long time. Places like this enrich people’s lives. They add vibrancy and life …..they allows us to connect as a community and often, as a country.
Today, in these very strange times, facilities like the stadium are more important than ever. We all know what happens when there is a big event at FMG Stadium Waikato. We know what it means to our moteliers, to our restaurants and to our retailers.
I encourage all of you to take time to enjoy the wall next time you are at the stadium. It will bring back a lot of memories! Today I smiled when I saw the famous photo of Waikato captain John Mitchell with the Ranfurly Shield. I think most of us will recall the day in 1993 that the Mighty Waikato ended Auckland’s 8-year reign. We all felt part of that team!
I also looked at the stark pictures from 1981, ‘the game that never was’. It was during the Springbok tour and the game was abandoned as New Zealand wrestled with issues of race and apartheid and where sport fitted into our world…..and where it didn’t.
Today’s official opening of the wall was held on the exact same spot that protestors gathered in 1981. No matter what side of the debate each of us was on back then, we can all recognise that our stadium, even then, was a touch point. It was a place where we gathered, and a place where we will continue to gather for many years to come.
So it’s important we remember that history and the wall records ALL of that history. I have found myself saying a lot lately that history mustn’t be sanitised, that if we are going to share history…..let’s share it all. After all, history so often shapes the present and the future. So I’m pleased the project team recorded that very challenging time in 1981.
Meanwhile, the stadium continues to create memories. ! The Chiefs and Waikato Rugby are part of the very fabric of our city – they are in our DNA. But when the All Blacks come to town – well….! Hamilton has hosted matches at the stadium as part of five World Cup events and those games are amazing!
A have very fond memories of tango with Charlie Faumuina in Garden Place when the Argentinians played here.
I also loved, as well all did, the HSBC NZ Sevens last year. It was a magnificent event in every respect. Magnificent for Hamilton, magnificent for New Zealand and magnificent for the code.
And of course Hamilton will host FIFA World Cup games here in 2023 and that’s going to put us on the world stage – again.
Next time you go to the Stadium, I do encourage you to go a little earlier than normal and take the time to look at the wonderful new addition to our city. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.
He whare whakahii, He whare wawana, He turangawaewae too tatou
Our Pride. Our Passion. Our Place.