Queenstown’s going barmy after being named one of the hosts of world rugby’s marquee team England for a short stint during the Rugby World Cup.
The country’s premier tourism resort – already bypassed as a match venue – will put the 2003 world champions up for just three nights of their 2011 campaign. Queenstown will also host Ireland for six nights and a yet-to-be-determined minor nation for four days of training.
Rugby New Zealand 2011 chief executive Martin Snedden’s announcement this morning comes despite local jungle drums tipping South Africa and Argentina to bed down in Queenstown.
Queenstown’s official allocation of 13 hosting nights throughout the seven-week campaign ranks ahead of Gisborne (12 nights), Blenheim (10 nights), Invercargill (10), Masterton (seven nights), Wanganui and Ashburton (six nights).
The announcement has resort leaders frothing.
Queenstown mayor Clive Geddes praises the “fantastic news” in a joint statement from his Queenstown Lakes District Council, marketing body Destination Queenstown and council sports facilties administrator Lakes Leisure.
“We are a district of relatively small communities that are being given a tremendous opportunity to play a big part in the Rugby World Cup.”
Excited DQ marketing boss Graham Budd says the team visits – no doubt accompanied by England’s Barmy Army supporters and international media – will fill Queenstown beds, eateries and attractions during September, normally a slow time for the resort.
QLDC-controlled Lakes Leisure leads Queenstown’s RWC 2011 committee which is part of a wider regional effort to host the heavyweight rugby teams.
Queenstown Events Centre, Alpine Aqualand and the attached gym facilities will be used by teams in Frankton. The Recreation Ground and Queenstown Gym in the CBD will be used as “back up venues”, LL events boss Karen Gemmell says.
A “fan zone” and “theming” throughout town will help promote Queenstown as a “host destination”, she says.
Rugby NZ 2011 boss Snedden says it’s fantastic to bring the event to so many of the country’s backyards. Teams will be hosted for various stints across 23 centres. – Ryan Keen