While large stadiums with seating for thousands remain important to the sporting identity of New Zealand cities, there are many other venues for high-performance sport.
Some are natural places – beaches for surfing, mountains for skiing and mountaineering, rivers or lakes for rowing. Others, such as roads for cycling tours or motor rallies, are not specifically designed for sports but are used for them from time to time.
Some natural rowing venues required a fair bit of engineering. Kerr’s Reach, a popular venue for canoeing and kayaking on Christchurch’s Avon River, was formed in 1950 by widening the river. Lake Karapiro on the Waikato River, the site of the 2010 World Rowing Championships, and Lake Ruataniwha near Twizel, the other major rowing venue in the 2000s, were created by hydro-electric power schemes in 1947 and 1981 respectively.
There are many specially constructed venues to provide for the particular needs of different sports. The earliest were race courses which required a long flat circuit as well as grandstands close to the finish. As early as 1854 the Canterbury Jockey Club erected a stone grandstand for its course at Riccarton, in Christchurch, probably the country’s first such building. In 2013 there were 33 courses for gallops in the North Island, and 23 in the South. They ranged from large city courses like Riccarton to community courses such as Kumara, which hosts one meeting a year. There were another nine courses used purely for harness racing.
The most popular speciality sports facilities are golf courses, which range from short 9-hole courses to full 18-hole courses of an international standard. In 2013 there were just over 400 courses in New Zealand. Some were municipal courses with low green fees. Others were luxury courses designed to international standard, such as Kauri Cliffs in Northland and Cape Kidnappers in Hawke’s Bay.
In the 19th century cycling took place at the main grounds such as Lancaster Park and the Basin Reserve. In the 1920s the need for banked tracks led to the construction of velodromes and by 2013 there were 19 such tracks in the country. This included two indoor wooden tracks of international standard at Invercargill and Cambridge.
When motor racing began in the early 20th century races were held on beaches. They soon moved to racecourses and airfields such as Wigram near Christchurch (from 1949), Ohakea in Manawatū (1950) and Ardmore near Auckland (1954). Later special motor-racing circuits were built; there were seven in 2013. There were also some 30 speedway circuits, but an equal number formerly used have closed.
Many communities have tennis courts, but there are only a few courts that cater for large numbers of spectators. Stanley Street (known in 2013 as ASB Tennis Centre) was established in Parnell in Auckland in 1920. It is the site of the two international tournaments that take place in New Zealand: the women’s ASB Classic and the men’s Heineken Open. Lancaster Park was the site of the 1911 Davis Cup final in which Australasia defeated the United States. In the early 1920s land was purchased in Christchurch as a tennis centre and named Wilding Park after New Zealand’s Wimbledon champion, Anthony Wilding. It had 39 courts but was severely damaged in the February 2011 earthquake. Wellington has the Renouf Tennis Centre, which has six indoor courts and 12 outdoor courts.
The first bowling green was opened in Grafton, Auckland, in 1862. By 2013 there were some 600 such greens in New Zealand, to be found in most small towns and suburbs throughout the country.
Swimming pools are widespread community assets supported by local authorities and schools. Pools of an Olympic length and with extensive spectator facilities are fewer. New Zealand’s first 50-metre pool was the Olympic Pool in Newmarket, Auckland, the venue for the 1950 Empire Games swimming events. By 2013 most provincial cities had at least one pool of that length.
By the early 2000s the growing public interest in and professionalism of netball and basketball had led communities to build large indoor arenas. Most had seating for at least 4,000 people, which became a requirement for hosting professional teams. The largest such arena was Auckland’s Spark Arena, seating up to 12,000, which, along with the North Shore Events Centre, hosted the New Zealand Breakers basketball team. Other arenas included Stadium Southland, Arena Manawatu and TSB Bank Arena in Wellington. Such venues were also used for events such as concerts and trade shows. Some, such as the Queenstown Events Centre (1999) and Arena Manawatu, were co-located with large sports stadiums for rugby and cricket.