The team behind three of Hamilton’s biggest venues are pulling out all stops to ensure COVID-19 doesn’t steal the show in what is a busy month of events.
Despite the current COVID-19 red setting, there are more than a dozen high profile events scheduled to take place this month across H3’s venues – FMG Stadium Waikato, Seddon Park and Claudelands, which includes Globox Arena. This schedule includes seven ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup fixtures, five Super Rugby Aupiki games, a Magic v Mystics ANZ Premiership netball match, an invitation-only Balloons Over Waikato Nightglow and the first Chiefs Super Rugby home game against the Crusaders, as well as numerous business events and private functions.
Ben Slatter, H3’s Director of Operations, says being able to deliver this busy events schedule despite the current COVID-19 restrictions is a real win for the venues and city, with the H3 team doing all they can to ensure the pandemic doesn’t derail those plans.
“Throughout this pandemic we have been constantly looking ahead and planning for the different scenarios – being able to be agile in the way we operate is key to ensuring we can keep hosting events of some shape and form, despite the challenges and restrictions our industry is facing,” he says.
“Part of our planning has been focused on different ways that we can deliver events while adhering to Government restrictions including offering technology solutions to allow hybrid events where some people attend in person and others participate via video links, and holding closed events without in-person crowds that are focused solely on television audiences or livestreams.”
Under the Government’s current red setting, controlled-access events (involving ticketing, registration, or another way to control access) can be held as long as a My Vaccine Pass requirement is in place, with restrictions of up to 100 people in a defined space at the venue at any time, based on 1-metre physical distancing. For ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup, the Ministry of Health has granted an exemption to this 100-person limit – instead allowing crowds of up to 20 percent of the venue’s total capacity.
Hamilton’s iconic Balloons Over Waikato Nightglow has this year adapted to work under the current COVID-19 restrictions by shifting to a virtual event where the public can watch the choreographed display via their social media channels. The Super Rugby and ANZ Premiership competitions are also kicking off under the red setting with a strong focus on television audiences as opposed to live crowds.
“We really appreciate how committed and flexible our team, partners and clients have been during this time – it is fantastic to see everyone working together to come up with solutions that allow the ‘show to go on’ for events. For example, we have two award functions happening at Claudelands this month that have both opted for a hybrid event model – this means the events will take place with a group of up to 100 at our venue and potentially another group of guests at a second venue, and then video livestreams will be used to connect between groups as well as enable others to tune in online. It’s impressive to see these types of creative solutions,” says Slatter, who stresses that people’s safety has remained H3’s number one priority throughout the pandemic.
“As the number of Covid cases in the community has increased, our focus has been on ensuring people are protected as much as possible. It is incredibly important to us that everyone on site at our venues are comfortable being there and feel well looked after.
“We are also mindful that the last thing we want is for our whole team don’t get struck down by Covid while we are in the middle of this massive month of events, so we’ve been very proactive with putting protective measures in place. One of the key steps introduced early in the omicron outbreak was the establishment of small working bubbles across our teams to reduce the number of close contacts and therefore the likelihood of spread within the business should Covid rear its ugly head,” he says.
The use of Rapid Antigen Tests for surveillance testing is also helping ensure Covid doesn’t spread undetected throughout H3’s essential workers.
“These measures are particularly crucial for the likes of our Turf Services team who are essential to the delivery of the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup games at Seddon Park as well as the Super Rugby fixtures at FMG Stadium Waikato – we could not risk having them all struck down at once as they have very specialised skills and knowledge, meaning the events simply could not happen without them,” says Slatter.
H3 Turf Service Manager Karl Johnson says he is very proud of the way his team has adapted to working under the current arrangements.
“My team are incredibly proud of the work they do to lay the groundwork for events like the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup and Super Rugby competitions to take place. I have been hugely impressed by their attitudes and commitment during this pandemic – they have made a lot of sacrifices to ensure they keep their bubbles small and protected so we can ensure our grounds are in top shape for these events to take place,” says Johnson.