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The stadium’s 30,000 seats were removed earlier this year – almost all have found homes with community groups and sports clubs

Lancaster Park comes down

In what has been described as New Zealand’s biggest demolition project, Christchurch’s Lancaster Park is slowly being dismantled and demolished piece by piece – with much of those pieces being found homes elsewhere.

Home to numerous rugby and cricket test matches and big-name rock concerts, Lancaster Park was closed after being extensively damaged during the February 2011 earthquake.

Quantity surveying firm Rawlinsons was engaged by Christchurch City Council to conduct an independent review of all the investigative work done at Lancaster Park by the council, its advisors, and its insurers to gauge the extent of the earthquake damage to the stadium.

Widespread damage, as a result of both earthquake shaking and ground settlement, included extensive cracking and spalling of concrete in the main structures

This was released in late 2016 and concluded that recommissioning Lancaster Park as a venue capable of holding top international rugby tests would cost between $252 million and $275 million – more than double what the stadium was insured for. 

Salvage operation

In March 2017, the council made the decision to deconstruct the stadium, with as much material as possible being salvaged or recycled. The Lancaster Park war memorial gates, built to commemorate the Canterbury athletes who served in the First World War, were to be protected and preserved during the deconstruction.

In June 2017, community and sporting groups and individuals were invited to outline in writing what they wanted from the stadium before deconstruction would get underway, with rugby gear, lighting tower heads, roller doors, display cabinets, showers and toilets all being requested. The stadium’s seats were the most commonly requested item, and work by Ceres NZ began in August to remove the 30,000 seats from the stands.

Darren Burden, general manager of Vbase, the venue management company that owns the stadium, said at the time that offering community and sporting groups the chance to acquire parts of the stadium reiterated the special place Lancaster Park holds in many people’s hearts. “While its deconstruction will clearly be an emotional time for many, we’re pleased that sporting and community groups from across Canterbury and New Zealand wish to see parts of the stadium live on by putting them to good use.”

A ‘soft strip’ of the stadium continued into the New Year, removing items such as carpets, doors, ceiling tiles and walls. “Our goal was to get the stadium reduced to a concrete and steel shell by June in preparation for the main demolition work, which we anticipate will take 
12 to 14 months to complete,” says Christchurch City Council project director Lee Butcher.

“Cutting the power and all services to the stadium was a big job in itself as we had to remove four large transformers that powered the floodlights. We also had to clear the 1.5 km of gas pipe that fed the many kitchens and bars throughout the stadium.”

Reuse and recycle

Mr Butcher says the deconstruction of Lancaster Park Stadium is a huge job. “It’s probably one of the biggest demolition jobs undertaken in New Zealand. We expect to remove about 68,000 cu m of material from above the ground and about 30,000 cu m of material from below the ground.”

Christchurch City Council project director Lee Butcher

While this tots up to almost 100,000 cu m of rubble, just 2% is expected to go to landfill. Around 40,000 tonnes of gravel will be used as the foundations for the running track at the Nga Puna Wai sports hub in southwest Christchurch, and concrete from the Deans and Paul Kelly Stands could be used by Lyttelton Port of Christchurch for the port redevelopment.

Other materials being salvaged include the steel reinforcements in the foundations and from the stands’ roofs, which will be sold as scrap metal, and polystyrene insulation from the corporate suites will be recycled for a fraction of what it would have cost to send to landfill.

All profits from the sale of salvaged goods, including the fixtures and fittings, is expected to net around $200,000 which is being returned to the project’s books, helping to keep the cost of the entire deconstruction project down to around $12 million for the council.

Lifting the roofs

With the stadium stripped to a bare shell, work got underway in June to demolish the Tui Stand, the first of the three remaining stands at Lancaster Park. The Hadlee Stand at the north end of the stadium was demolished in 2012 for safety reasons.

“Demolition of the Tui Stand signalled the start of the main demolition work,” says Mr Butcher. “Contractors started by using two excavators to poke holes into the stand. They then ripped it open like an old-fashioned can opener. At the same time they had a crane operating to remove the Tui side-screens and the scoreboard.”

With the Tui Stand cleared by July, contractors were ready to tackle the next big project: removing the roofs from the Paul Kelly and Deans Stands.

Contractors lift the roof off the Paul Kelly Stand – as each section comes off, it is craned into the centre of the stadium where it is dismantled

“It’s a big job. Clearwater Construction, who are carrying out the work, have brought in a 400 tonne crane to do the job. At 100 m tall, it is twice the height of the stadium. They had to transport the crane onto the site in parts over several weeks, and just setting it up took several days,” says Mr Butcher.

“A lot of planning and engineering checks have been done to ensure the roofs can be removed safely. The plan is to lift the roofing off in sections and then remove the steel rafters separately.”

The contractors started on the roof of the Paul Kelly Stand first as it is the smaller of the two roofs. As each section of roof is lifted off, it is craned into the centre of the stadium where it is dismantled. Both the roofing metal and steel rafters will be sold as scrap.

“We expect to have both roofs off in October, after which demolition of the Paul Kelly and Deans Stands will begin,” Mr Butcher concludes. The tender for that work is expected to go out in August.

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