Newlands Rugby Stadium, an independent review

April 14, 2011
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There has been an ongoing debate surrounding Newlands Rugby Stadium and its value given the newly built, Cape Town Stadium.

RuggaWorld received an email from a company called Stadium Journey who independently review stadiums around the world.

The value of this specific review is quite interesting given the debate whether WP Rugby Union should move headquarters to the newly built Cape Town Stadium, or stay in the leafy suburbs of Newlands.  Here is their review but please help us by giving your vote on their website by clicking HERE.  We might just forward the results off to WP Rugby!

In the shadows of its newer, prettier, World Cup soccer-hosting sister, Newlands Stadium in Cape Town, South Africa remains a staple to local culture and lore. Since 1888, Capetownians have visited the grounds at Newlands to cheer on their local rugby and soccer teams, filling the seats now 52,000 strong. Since its inception, Newlands has changed ownerships (and names) several times, but has held tried and true to its roots: a welcoming mecca for the passionate and faithful fans that call its bleachers home. Whether they are there to watch the Stormers smash heads with rival rugby clubs, or to marvel at one of their three premiere soccer clubs, fans return to Newlands in droves.

Food & Beverage   2/5

Traveling in a foreign land, I didn’t know what to expect heading into Newlands hungry. The offerings are interesting, and cheap. Subs, ranging from chicken salad to steak and cheese are proudly displayed, with illustrations of each on the large white board next to the concession stand.

The basic tuna or chicken salad cost 25 Rand ($3.50) up to the steak and cheese which runs at a very reasonable 35 Rand ($5). Popcorn, cotton candy and chocolate bars are also offered in the concession stand, for around $3 a piece. In the stands, the hawkers dispense hot dogs for 15 Rand ($2), ice cream for 30 Rand ($4.25), and Biltong (jerked meat) for 40 Rand ($6.75).

Water and Coke are your beverages of choice, each for around $1.25. Accessibility is the main drawback in this category, as there are few concession stands to speak of. Also, no beer in the stands. There is a bar built into the underbelly of the stadium that fills to its 250 person capacity within seconds of the halftime whistle. The stadium is generally understaffed to accommodate 52,000 fans yearning for snacks and beverages.

Atmosphere   4/5

Far from state-of-the-art, Newlands’ aging cosmetics add to the historic allure of this stadium. The backless bleachers are covered in vulcanized rubber pads which seem intended to provide comfort but instead ensure that you are sitting inches away from your neighbors regardless how familiar you are with each other.

A single jumbotron circa 1990 shows replays some three minutes after the play and you need to squint to make out the score. Nothing intelligible comes out of the loudspeaker, not because the announcer was speaking in tongues, but because the stadium has outgrown the PA system. All of these deficiencies, though, are embraced by the locals as character-building details of their beloved Newlands.

Because parking is scarce, your journey to the stadium starts some half-mile away but you are immediately immersed in pre-game hoopla as the die-hards funnel towards the stadium donning their newest jerseys, flying flags and chanting fight songs. The fan walk is lined with food vendors and merchants selling their wares, rugby-related and otherwise. There is even a “sausage guy” prepared to make yours to order. Once inside the fervor is palpable. The songs, the flags, the facepaint… and this is during the exhibition matches. The fans cheer when the coaches took the field; they cheer louder when the players came out to do calisthenics; they blow your eardrums out at kickoff.

For 80 minutes, every play is for the championship. Every penalty is the loss of a first born. Every home score is the birth of another. To toe the line of blasphemy, 2007 ALCS in Boston just eked out more energy than this regular season match between inter-country rivals. Of particular note to this sports fan…NO VUVUZELAS ALLOWED. Well done Newlands.

So why not a 5/5 you might ask? Because when the going gets tough, the fans go silent. Not fair weather by any means, but a defeatist lull enough to break any team’s spirit. Any break in the action – an injury timeout, an officials’ conference, an opponent’s score – and it’s as if the stadium was never filled to begin with. No music, no chants, no cursing at the ref…just abysmal silence that renders the stadium a sleeping giant. True to form, though, the slightest gain by the home team and you are shouting at the guy sitting very, very close to you: “well played.”

Neighborhood   5/5

Two words: Cape Town. Beach, mountains, and bars are all within a stones-throw of the Newlands neighborhood. Even though the city boasts a population of three million strong, everywhere you go, Newlands Stadium seems right in your backyard. Within walking distance of the stadium, hungry and thirsty match-goers can stop in at the Golden Spur, the Springbok Pub, Nino’s Forrester’s Arms, Cubana, Sobar or the Stardust Cafe, all boasting full and diverse menus. Newlands is surrounded by schools including the University of Cape Town, as well as other sports facilities such as the Newlands Cricket Grounds, so the area is always active.

The stadium sits in the warm confines of the “city bowl” a natural valley formed by the Table Mountain Nature Reserve and spectators can enjoy a view of the gorgeous Cape Town landscape as they cheer on their local teams. The natural beauty of Cape Town is something worth traveling for, which is why Newlands Stadium gets a perfect score in this category.

Fans   4/5

Because of the cozy confines of Newlands, much of this commentary will blend into the last. Fans here are from all walks of life. Unlike many of the venues in the states, the fine line between the haves and the have-nots is blurred. However disparate their respective upbringings, the fans here have a common purpose – willing their team to victory. It is a testament to the post-Apartheid South African spirit.

Access   4/5

As with most stadiums located in cities, accessibility by car is not a hallmark of Newlands’ draw. That said, if you know where you are going, and know the secrets, parking is reasonably affordable (30-40 Rand/$4-$6) and surprising close to the stadium.

Located right off one of the city’s major highways, the stadium is accessible to guests from all directions. One of the drawbacks of this set up is that there are few ways in and seemingly fewer ways out after the match. You need to arrive early to avoid gridlock and if the game is one-sided, it is a good idea to leave early as well. Far from a novel concept, it is a price to pay for having such a facility so close to the hub of the city.

A better option, and one employed by the locals, is the public transportation system that literally drops fans steps away from the stadium. Benefiting from a World Cup makeover, the public transportation system of Cape Town has expanded and become more efficient providing reliable access and egress to Newlands’ patrons.

Return on Investment   4/5

An interesting study in currency exchange, for the price of parking, ticket, food and beverage for two at Newlands one could buy ONE bleacher seat ticket at any popular baseball stadium in the states. For South Africans, though, the entire enterprise costs the average sports fan relatively the same as it would for a trip to the ballgame in a mid-range market stadium in the US.

Either way you look at it, with everything Newlands has to offer in atmosphere, and for the level of talent and athleticism you are guaranteed to see, the benefit in pulling out the wallet to visit Newlands far outweighs the cost.

Extras   1/5

The addage “you get what you pay for” rings true in Newlands. Even the “luxury” boxes are quite ordinary. There is one jumbotron for the entire stadium and the facade of the sponsors and advertisements are dingy and in need of replacing. High schools have better public announcement systems; the outdated speakers at Newlands make the announcers and the stadium music sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher.

The cheerleading squad even needs work. Nine women came out onto the field pre-game to do their routine to warm up the crowd. One fell as soon as the music started. Once back on her feet, the embarrassed cheerleader joined her comrades in a series of cartwheels for three minutes and then they retired to the corner of the stadium where they never left. Not a back flip, not a lift, not so much as a handspring…just cartwheels.

By sticking to what they know, and shedding the excesses of trying to appeal to everyone, Newlands provides the perfect place to watch sports, and just watch sports.

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19 Comments

  1. avatar Bekke says:
    April 13th, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    Wonder what the rating for new stadium would be? I was there on Monday (Neil Diamond show) for the first time, and was impressed with the layout and access. The seats are much better than Newlands, but the food and beer stalls were also 50/50. The screens are also way too small, and I do not know what the PA system would be like?
    But overall, the stadium felt dead – just a well-build, efficient piece of steel and concrete, with no soul. But maybe it will change for a new generation, once they have experiences pain and joy on behalf of their beloved teams?

  2. avatar Boertjie says:
    April 13th, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    Check this later.
    First question:
    Do you want to watch rugby – of wil julle pis en suip en vreet?

  3. avatar Jacques(Bunny) says:
    April 13th, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    Reply to Boertjie @ 4:44 pm: Stem Honderd % saam, een van die beste stadiums om rugby te kyk saam met Loftus en Kingspark.

  4. avatar onerb says:
    April 13th, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    Morne, is there no way to get a spot on the site for the rugby panel? It is on every monday morning on just plain breakfast. I really enjoy it and I’m sure the rugrats will too.

    http://www.jacarandafm.com/kagiso/content/en/jacaranda/jacaranda-podcasts?oid=1152653&sn=Detail&pid=6091&Rugby-Panel—11-April

    I’m sure 94.2 won’t mind it as it is publicity for them. Maybe confirm first.

  5. avatar onerb says:
    April 13th, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    Reply to Jacques(Bunny) @ 5:46 pm:

    Ek stem ook saam, drink by die skottelbraai voor die game. Wie eet in elkgeval daai rubber rolls wat hulle op die pawiljoen verkoop, sies man ( nou het julle nie ‘n smiley van iemand wat kots nie)

  6. avatar Boertjie says:
    April 13th, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    Reply to onerb @ 7:30 pm:

    Ons het:

    :tpuke:

  7. avatar Boertjie says:
    April 13th, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    NO VUVUZELAS ALLOWED
    :applause:

    No music,
    :applause:

    The natural beauty of Cape Town is something worth traveling for,
    :applause:
    although the likes of old suurgat Dawie wil disagree.
    And it also seems totally lost on Shields.

    the fans here have a common purpose – willing their team to victory. It is a testament to the post-Apartheid South African spirit.
    :whatever:
    There’s always a certain sourpuss Cape Flats section and even further aboard from the SWD that get’s their pleasure out of cheering for the All Blacks – ironically the last side that had formal contact in the pres-94 era and even lead to a complete walkout of African teams at the 1976 Olympics.

    High schools have better public announcement systems; the outdated speakers at Newlands make the announcers and the stadium music sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher
    :yeahright:
    Are there any outdoor places with half decent sound?

    The cheerleading squad even needs work.
    : bigfinger:
    Pathetic. Will anybody miss this, anywhere?

  8. avatar bryce_in_oz says:
    April 14th, 2011 at 3:58 am

    Interesting evaluation…

    I’ve been to them all from the UK to NZ to RSA to Aus… and no stadium built for rugby in the world has better seating vision and comfort (even behind the posts), amenities, access via trams, trains and buses than AAMI park in Melbourne…

    Truly something to behold… I could only imagine what it would be like with RSA type crowds… and particularly with the Rebel Army now such as force along the lines of the Barmy Army…

  9. avatar bryce_in_oz says:
    April 14th, 2011 at 3:59 am

    Reply to bryce_in_oz @ 3:58 am:

    Food and booze still over-priced and standard crappy fare… all alcohol is mid-strength… but the time turnover and outlets are great…

  10. avatar Morné says:
    April 14th, 2011 at 8:53 am

    Reply to onerb @ 7:28 pm:

    We can post the link, but we cannot put the podcast up here. Believe me they don’t see it as advertising for them because they don’t see the stats on their website for people coming here to visit…

  11. avatar JT says:
    April 14th, 2011 at 9:12 am

    Reply to bryce_in_oz @ 3:58 am:

    Of all the stadiums I have been to these are the ones I rate:
    Watchability: best must be Parc de Princes in Paris :applause: , I hate Stade Francais in Paris :tpuke:
    Sansero in milan for the one off AB v Italy game was fantastic! 80K people and great atmosphere.
    Overall experience Twikkers must rate as one of the best Rugby stadiums I have ever been!
    In SA I have only been to Newlands, Kingspark, Loftus and Elispark – Newlands & Kingspark were pretty awesome for seeing the action up close, I did have good tickets though :whistling:
    Next stadiums I want to visit are the new Aviva stadium in Dublin & Murrayfield.

  12. avatar the cheetahs are pumas! says:
    April 14th, 2011 at 9:15 am

    Its a kakplaas of note. Millenium Stradium in Cardiff for me is still the stadard of a rugby stadium with great pubs and bars in the viscinity, the stadium itself laid out well – loads of toilets, food stands etc.

    FNB by far the best built stadium I have been to. 100 000 people with U2 show yet you never Q for fuckall, not a pee, not a burger, not a drink. NEVER! Amazing.

    Newlands in contrast has one toilet per 5000 people and its fucking disgusting. You can buy warm coke and over salted cheap ass biltong.

    OK if you a wp fan and you remember where Calla Scholtz scored in 1982 then the place has sentimental value – but for Springbok games this place should never ever be used again, EVER!

    Give me Greenpoint anyday.

  13. avatar JT says:
    April 14th, 2011 at 9:21 am

    Reply to the cheetahs are pumas! @ 9:15 am:

    you go to the game to piss or watch rugby??

  14. avatar the cheetahs are pumas! says:
    April 14th, 2011 at 9:23 am

    Reply to JT @ 9:12 am:

    Id go to Aviva with you!

    But i swear the experience of a test at Greenpoint and the trip to Cape town and the stunning array and variation of entertainment around it makes this probably one of sports great day’s out right now?

  15. avatar the cheetahs are pumas! says:
    April 14th, 2011 at 9:25 am

    Reply to JT @ 9:21 am:

    If i pay R460 for the privilege – I want it ALL!

  16. avatar the cheetahs are pumas! says:
    April 14th, 2011 at 9:26 am

    Talk about pissing – the vibe around Kinspark prior to and after a game PISSES on what you get at Newlands.

  17. avatar JT says:
    April 14th, 2011 at 9:30 am

    Reply to the cheetahs are pumas! @ 9:26 am:

    I was at Twickenham for the GP Final (Sarries v Leicester) and I thought the vibe around the stadium was awesome.

    Best Vibe was after a game in Paris: 1996 when SA beat France by 1 point – what a night that was!

    2nd Best was in Rome after the 1st ever 6N match for Italy which they won against Scotland!

  18. avatar the cheetahs are pumas! says:
    April 14th, 2011 at 9:59 am

    Reply to JT @ 9:30 am:

    Iam not a huge twickers fan but have only ever been there in pissing cold end-of-year games. Having to wait an hour for a train after your team just lost just sucks.

  19. avatar JT says:
    April 14th, 2011 at 10:01 am

    Reply to the cheetahs are pumas! @ 9:59 am:

    makes sense – I was there in May last year and lived walking distance from the stadium.

    Helps 8)

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