Let’s play ball


Phoenix owner Serepisos wants annual match in resort.

Wellington Phoenix owner Terry Serepisos reckons Queenstown kids were the real winners from the A-League pre-season football game against Melbourne Victory last Saturday.

The exhibition match at the Events Centre – which ended in a 1-1 stalemate – drew a lower-than-expected crowd of about 2000.

But speaking from his luxury Belfast Terrace holiday home, the multi-millionaire property king insists the resort’s first taste of big-time soccer was a “100 per cent success”.

“I can’t complain about the size of the crowd as it wasn’t the most important factor here,” Serepisos says. “A lot of people didn’t know what to expect as we were breaking new ground and this game was mainly for benefit of the kids.

“Hundreds of children are now playing football in the Queens­town area and I was really pleased at the numbers of youngsters at the game and who were asking the players for autographs.

“One of the main reasons I brought my team down here was that kids, parents and clubs in the area had written asking me to do so.

“Youngsters here don’t get the chance to see top-level football and we have almost half of the New Zealand national team – these are guys who could potentially make it to the World Cup.

“Kids are aspiring to be like these players and this was a great opportunity for them to see some of them close up.”

Serepisos adds: “The match can only have done a lot of good for the future of football in Queens­town and I’d now like to bring the Phoenix back to the resort to play on an annual basis.

“The players loved the place and I know the Melbourne team felt the same way.”

Entrepreneur Serepisos is thought to be worth more than $100 million, mainly from his Wellington-based property company Century City Ltd.

And the football-mad club owner and chairman knows a thing or two about promoting soccer.

He took over the Phoenix in 2007 and ensured that Australian A-League soccer stayed in NZ.

In December of that year he also brought soccer superstar David Beckham to Wellington with the LA Galaxy in a $2 million deal and attracted a record crowd of 32,000.

Dad-of-one Serepisos, 46, bought his four-bedroom Queens­town Hill property three years ago.

He says he regards the resort as his “second home” and visits several times a year.

“It’s a great place to come and unwind and to get away from my every day lifestyle.”

But despite strong ties here, he claims he has no plans to develop any major business interests in the town.

“I’ve looked into investing in Queenstown in the past but I was probably lucky that I didn’t,” he says. “A lot of the property market down here has taken a big tumble, so I’m glad I didn’t get involved.

“I already have a beautiful house in Queenstown but when it comes to investing, I’ll stick to what I know best and that’s my own backyard in Wellington.”

Serepisos believes property prices here will eventually recover – but not for a long time.

“The resort is in a good position because it’s international and has so many foreign investors.

“Queenstown will always bounce back, but I don’t know how many years it will take for this to happen because it’ll certainly be years and not months.”