DScene: Serious crowd safety issues at Forsyth Barr Stadium

Following the All Blacks v South Africa rugby test on Saturday, Mike Houlahan, editor and writer for D Scene, highlights crowd safety issues at the Stadium.

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### D Scene 19 Sep 2012 (page 6)
D Scene Editorial: Act now to avoid stadium injuries
By Mike Houlahan
Forsyth Barr Stadium management got lucky on Saturday night after people were left bruised by a human logjam under the Mitre 10 Mega Stand at halftime in Saturday’s All Blacks v South Africa rugby test.[…]If there had been a crush, medical staff would have had severe problems getting to injured people. It also raises the question of how easily patrons could have evacuated the stand in a genuine emergency.
{continues} #bookmark


### D Scene 19 Sep 2012 (pages 3-4)
Stadium looks at rugby test crowd problems
By Mike Houlahan
Forsyth Barr Stadium management have vowed improvements will be made after long queues and a potentially dangerous halftime crush under the Mitre 10 Mega stand spoiled the first All Blacks rugby test at the new venue for some patrons. Thousands formed a mass scrum at halftime trying to get to bars, food outlets and toilets under the Mitre 10 Mega stand. Unlike at the other end of the ground which has permanent toilets underneath, patrons must shuffle the whole length of the narrow passage. For many, getting to the toilets and back took 20 to 30 minutes. Similar-sized crowds were in the stadium for the Rugby World Cup matches last year, but on those occasions RWC volunteers directed traffic.

Stadium chief executive David Davies said all issues with the game would be discussed at a debrief, including whether the addition of extra seating for the test had caused problems.

“If we had further stewards would that have made it easy? I’m not sure, it’s another set of bodies. But what we will do is look at the design for similar loading again.” Davies suspected a combination of factors led to Saturday’s problems. “We have had full Zoo attendances [the designated Scarfie zone] at other matches but didn’t have the same issues,” Davies said. “I think there were a couple of influences on Saturday that had we had the benefit of experience we would have done differently. Unfortunately, all over the stadium there were jams on the concourses resulting from people remaining in their seats to watch the presentation of the Olympians which we fully understood and supported. What that did was condense halftime down from 15 minutes to about eight, because people remained to pay their respects. Then people who wanted a drink and a comfort break all left at the same time rather than it being spread out.”

Davies said the stadium had come a long way since the Elton John concert and the Rugby World Cup, and was being better managed.

“We have taken on board constructive criticism we have received. We won’t be resting on our laurels, but Saturday was relatively quiet. Police were telling us they had 11 incidents with the public and the vast majority of the crowd were well behaved.” #bookmark #bookmark

Comment received at What if? Dunedin…

Submitted on 2012/09/19 at 7:23 am

The ForBarr stadium design is a catastrophe waiting to happen. The exits from the stands cause an immediate crush at the food outlets as people queueing cross those heading for the toilets. This happens in all of the stands. Ironically, the East stand (which has toilets but lacks food outlets) is the best.

This isn’t noticeable in normal use as the stadium is never full and does not have a boisterous or violent crowd. The design can cope with up to 15K crowds, but more than that is dubious. In an emergency, the best way to avoid the crush would be to get onto the pitch and wait for the groundsman to throw you out.

I posted concerns during construction several times, in particular, the fall hazard from the North Stand where at the ends, there is an unprotected fall of 15m.

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr


Filed under Architecture, Business, Concerts, Construction, CST, DCC, Design, DVML, Economics, Events, Media, Name, People, Politics, Project management, Property, Site, Sport, Stadiums

18 responses to “DScene: Serious crowd safety issues at Forsyth Barr Stadium

  1. How many million to fix this issue?

  2. Peter

    It was excellent of D Scene to report on this in order to preclude any possibility of future tragedy. Hopefully, amends can be made so this crush problem doesn’t happen again. Nothing from the ODT. Of course.

    • Elizabeth

      The dark days in Dunedin where conflicts of interest, Peter, are trivialised by the extent of vested interests. (the ‘glamour’ of sponsored stands, lack of appropriate design, and appalling instances of what passes for venue management – all this above public safety, with nary an alarm or front page news story raised at Rugby Times…)

      Plus. Taxi access for disabled patrons a write-off. Somebody at DVML really did a complete walk-through of all scenarios prior to the game on Saturday! That’s why David Davies’ salary is as high as it is, and Darren’s.

  3. Hype O'Thermia

    Hey if crips are brought by friends or take taxis that don’t have a Special Mutually Beneficial Arrangement with Fubarcorp they’re asking to be dumped out on the road, right? They can’t walk too good so they think they should have special arrangements made for them. Wrong. Special arrangements are for steakholders and Big Rugby not the common disabled.
    End of.

  4. Rob Hamlin

    You cannot fix this structure – especiallty the North Stand with tight seats, oversized rough steps, steep narrow aisles and a 180% turn into an opposing crush coming around the other stairs with a c.15 foot drop immediately behind you onto concrete, then a fight down a narrow combined set of stairs into the enclosed food chip/pan plaza where the actual fire/smoke will be going on – No chance, esecially for Little Jimmy or Grandad. It would make Hillsborough look like the twittering of little birds.

  5. Peter

    Personally, I find such venues claustrophobic and the possibilities for crowds getting out of control is not something I would willingly risk my life for. Maybe OK, if you have confidence in the people management of this particular venue by DVML. Trouble is, I don’t.

  6. Anonymous

    North Stand is a death-trap, agreed.
    Best position is at the Eastern end of the lower South Stand. First sign of trouble – exit over fence onto pitch and through the gates between East and South stand.

  7. Rob Hamlin

    Yes, if some patrons fighting for their pies cause crush problems with ushers present, then all patrons (ushers included) fighting for their lives will most certainly ‘do the business’ in this building.

    • Elizabeth

      Story for the birds, not the trifle of crowd safety…

      ### ODT Online Thu, 20 Sep 2012
      Stadium battle of birds venue
      By Chris Morris
      Stadium staff are waging a running battle with [seagulls] inside the roofed venue, located near the city’s waterfront. Dunedin Venues Management Ltd chief executive David Davies yesterday conceded seagulls were proving to be a “constant source of irritation”. Dozens of birds were making a habit of nesting high up in the south stand’s steelwork – as well as elsewhere – and depositing their guano on everything below, including seats and the playing surface, he said.
      Read more

  8. Hype O'Thermia

    Years ago there was an enterprising chap who ended up in court. He had been catching seagulls, salting them down, preserving them in fat and selling them as muttonbirds. Any genuine (not visionary or empty promises) money that can be earned by/in the Fubar…….

  9. amanda

    The dear old ODT is consistent at least. Why would they let a buzz-killer of a story like the potential for people being crushed at their beloved stadium get in the way of lauding all things stadium related? Because if they dared to report anything negative, then Genius stakeholders might have the puffery knocked out of them, and we can’t have that, can we?

  10. Phil

    And that’s why this stadium was sold as an outdated product. Large modern stadia around the world do not operate public food booths within the stadium itself. Food stalls are set up outside of the stadium to allow for people to purchase food on the way to, or on the way from, the stadium. The stadium itself is stall-free. If you want food during the match, there are vendors moving around the seating areas. So the food comes to you and not vice versa. A modern stadium design has a heavy focus on immediate clean exit and entry routes to and from the seating. The last thing they want is a bottleneck. A lot of that is driven by FIFA safety requirements for stadia. All our people did was to build Carisbrook with a roof.

    I attended a football match at San Siro stadium in Milan. A sellout game with 80,000+. No food booths inside the complex, no beer halls, just spiral ramps leading in, and spiral ramps leading out. We hung around after the match to take some photos and noted that 80,000 people managed to empty out of the stadium in under 10 minutes. For some reason our sports administrators seem to be hung up on the antiquated notion that, in order to enjoy a football match, you have to have beer and pies. Maybe that says something about the quality of the entertainment on offer.

    • Elizabeth

      What ODT Online would not print (enough time has elapsed, I get the message), as sent:

      No story and seagulls
      Submitted by ej kerr on Thu, 20/09/2012 – 1:51pm.
      If the ODT finds some expert opinion on the lack of crowd safety at the stadium, at the North Stand in particular, and on possible remedies – then the newspaper can comfortably sit back and be the (independent) media piece allowing debate.
      What happened in the stands at the All Blacks v South Africa match on Saturday should never be repeated – David Davies should be held fully accountable.
      It is reported in a rival publication (D Scene 19.9.12) that Forsyth Barr Stadium management have vowed to make improvements “after long queues and a potentially dangerous halftime crush under the Mitre 10 Mega stand spoiled the first All Blacks rugby test at the new venue for some patrons”.
      In the same item, Mr Davies is reported as saying the stadium had come a long way since the Elton John concert and the Rugby World Cup, and was being better managed.
      While there is a (widely known) potential for crush at the stadium, if this isn’t being investigated with full transparency and public accountabilities, and appropriate controls aren’t in place to ensure public safety at all times, then I guess there is a ‘burden’ on Dunedin Venues Management Ltd to rumour future events and scare seagulls, only.

      • Elizabeth

        Beverley McLean writes a letter to the editor about safety issues at the stadium (ODT 27.9.12, page 14). She had a fall on the steps at the Speight’s Stand; she says her husband was also at risk. Beverley wonders “if the stadium staff are aware that a number of other people fell exiting the North Stand. Sooner or later, someone is going to be severely hurt…”.
        Mr Burden replies briefly saying it’s regrettable the reader lost her footing. On behalf of DVML he extends an apology.

        I think I will send Mr Burden copy of comments appearing here, also expressing safety concerns. That it has taken this long for the venues and events manager, DVML, to investigate all potential crowd and safety issues is the measure of David Davies’ lack of comprehensive safety auditing before and after each event held at the stadium. His overblown salary, however, ensured he was in funds to take business lunches at the Plaza cafe – rather than check out the risks at his stands and provide workable safety solutions. Spectacular.

  11. Peter

    Well written, Elizabeth. Is the ODT more interested in ‘saving face’ for themselves, and their stadium, than potentially getting stuck into this issue and potentially ‘saving lives’? There were obviously ODT staffers there who could see the problem for themselves. Disgraceful.
    Their silence is now documented.

  12. amanda

    “..accountabilities..” ? Yes. Absolutely. Problem is the ODT does not seem very interested in public acccountability for the stadium debacle, be it fiscal or life and death related. It would be too much of a downer, and Important People might get egg on their faces… look…there’s a rugby game over there…!

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