1 October 2009
Standing on the newly laid pitch, with the signature arch soaring overhead and the 56 000 permanent seats all in place, one can almost see the crowds taking their seats and feel the excitement growing in Durban’s dramatic new multi-purpose stadium.
It’s just weeks to go now until completion of the city’s Moses Mabhida Stadium, which will seat 69 000 people during the 2010 Fifa World Cup and host seven matches, including a semi-final, during the tournament.
At the height of construction of the stadium, there were over 2 500 workers on site, but on a quiet Sunday morning only a handful of workers are left, erecting balustrades, putting the last touches to the venue offices, and cleaning up walkways and access areas.
“We are just weeks away from a complete stadium now,” says head of Durban/eThekwini municipality’s 2010 programme, Julie May Ellingson. “Then it’s over to Fifa and the Organising Committee to get it operationally ready for a World Cup; but the plan is to open it up to Durban citizens long before.”
Finalists in a local schools World Cup competition will be the lucky teams to be the first to step out onto the new turf to mark the stadium’s opening in front of the city’s residents on 28 November 2009.
This will be followed the day after with a match between two yet-to-be-announced Premier Soccer League (PSL) sides. A number of concerts and further PSL matches are planned from January to May 2010 to give the stadium the “stress tests” it needs to ensure it is operationally ready for football’s greatest showpiece in June 2010.
The focus now shifts to the stadium precinct projects and ensuring that fans, players and the media can easily access the stadium on match day.
Durbanites are renowned for making the most of a sporting match day. When residents of the city attend a football, cricket or rugby match, they get to the venue hours before, parking in adjacent fields and setting up braais (barbeques) alongside their cars for pre-and post-match festivities which often go into the early hours of the next morning.
To ensure this spirit is maintained, numerous park-and-ride and park-and-walk facilities are planned, and some R250-million is being spent on upgrading the beach promenade and extending the walkway from the beach all the way to the stadium.
Fans will also be conveniently transported to the stadium by rail, with a new train station adjacent to the stadium currently under construction.
“For us as a city it was always very important that the stadium is financially viable after 2010,” says Ellingson. “For this reason we have built a multi-functional stadium that can serve the needs of football, rugby and athletics.
A “People’s Park” is also being developed adjacent to the stadium, which will be one of the hubs of spectator festivities during the tournament.
“We have worked hard to ensure that the entire precinct becomes an area used by the residents of the city,” says Ellingson. “The People’s Park is an important legacy project for us. This park is a green space next to the stadium which includes two training fields, a running and cycling track, a children’s playground and a tea garden.
“Residents and visitors can also ride a cable car to the top of the arch, or climb the 550 steps, for spectacular 365-degree views of the adjacent Indian Ocean and the city.
“For the adventure junkies, there will also be a bungee swing from the stadium’s arch.”
The stadium will also feature 72 000m² of retail space and a gym, to help ensure that it is used for more than just sporting events and becomes a constantly bustling asset of the city.