Forsyth Barr Stadium Hero

Forsyth Barr Stadium: The sporting heart of Dunedin

In August 2006 the Carisbrook Stadium Trust announced it had all but abandoned the option to upgrade Carisbrook in favour of replacing the stadium. The new stadium would not only be the home of the Highlanders and Otago, but also the University of Otago’s signature school of physical education.

Despite significant opposition to the project, largely due to the expected cost of a stadium that might find limited use, the Dunedin City Council voted 12-2 in favour of proceeding with the project on 17 March 2008.

They engaged Hawkins to construct the most Southerly stadium in the world in time for the Rugby World Cup in 2011.


Dunedin City Council’s aims:

  • To build a stadium to support the following objectives:
    • People living well in healthy Otago communities – through urban design for community growth and healthy living and promoting individual participation in recreational and other activities.
    • Knowledge and learning for prosperity in Otago – through the associated link between the University of Otago and the stadium, and the opportunities created to improve teaching and research in Otago.
    • Sustainable use of resources for prosperity in Otago – through the provision of infrastructure for healthy communities and educational purposes, and a destination for visitors to Otago attending events held at the stadium.

What we did:

Hawkins was involved in delivering a number of building projects throughout New Zealand in readiness for Rugby World Cup 2011, but it was Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin that was at the core of our efforts.

Built on 3.1 hectares of reclaimed land overlooking Otago Harbour, the new indoor stadium facility (New Zealand’s first undercover stadium and largest indoor multipurpose arena) has a capacity of 30,000 for sporting events and more than 35,000 for concerts. Forsyth Barr Stadium is a purpose-built, highly versatile facility capable of hosting all kinds of business, entertainment, community and educational conferences and events.

We led the team that constructed the stadium between 2009 and 2011. With only 25 months from being awarded the project to completion, time was tight. In order to ensure supplies were at the stadium on time for installation, we started by computer modelling the project, and were able to deliver it on time thanks to this.

Unique challenges:

  • The stadium is built on reclaimed fill and so we had to improve the ground conditions. To do so we used 10,000 cubic tonnes of crushed recycled building concrete and installed 600 foundation piles.
  • The assembly and installation of the roof structure was challenging as the main 130 metre long steel truss weighed 390 tonnes; that’s equivalent to three and a half Boeing 787s. It was lifted into place by a 400-tonne and two 280-tonne cranes. The 35 metre lift was the highest for such a weight ever undertaken in New Zealand. The truss is a prominent feature above the Southern stand. It supports the rest of the roof structure, which consists of five arched trusses, each 101 metres long, 10m wide up to 10 metres tall and weighing 200 tonnes. It took 12 hours to put this in place with no margin for error.

The outcome:

We reached practical completion on Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium on Friday July 22nd, 2011. Since then the stadium has hosted a number of sporting and music events including the inaugural game, a pre-season match between Wellington Phoenix and Brisbane Roar, on 20 August 2011, and musical performances by international artists Elton John, Paul Simon and Aerosmith.