One Question Quiz
Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

SportsMay 19, 2023

The naming rights deals of New Zealand’s stadiums, ranked

Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

Where does ‘Go Media Stadium’ sit in the history of this country’s biggest sporting grounds getting new names for money?

First it got new blue seats, now it has a new name. When the Warriors play their next home game in Auckland, they will officially be playing at “Go Media Stadium”, formerly known as Mount Smart, after a new naming rights sponsorship deal was announced between the outdoor advertising company and Auckland Stadiums earlier this week.

Naming rights deals are one of the small joys of following sport in the professional era. You never know when you’re going to wake up and find out the team you’ve supported for years now plays at a stadium that sounds like it was sponsored by the last dregs of the Public Interest Journalism Fund in a desperate attempt to boost industry morale.

Some new stadium names end up enhancing the general vibe so much you forget what they ever used to be called. Others you go to great lengths to avoid ever having to say out loud. So where does Go Media Stadium fit into the history of New Zealand stadiums’ naming rights sponsorships? There’s only one way to find out and that’s by ranking them all from least to biggest improvement.

(Parameters: Stadiums only – NO INDOOR ARENAS. Must host or have hosted regular first-class rugby or cricket.)

27. Semenoff Stadium

It might sound like the name of a specialist cleaning product but the home of Northland rugby is in fact named after Whangārei heavy transport magnate cum former mayor Stan Semenoff, whose company the Stan Semenoff Group secured the naming rights to Okara Park in 2019.

26. CET Arena

The Central Energy Trust or CET Arena sounds a little too close to “CTE” for comfort – NZ Rugby and the ACC should probably put in a combined bid to be revert it back to Palmerston North Showgrounds. The home of the Manawatu Turbos was also known as FMG Stadium until 2015, when the rural insurer dumped them and started sponsoring Hamilton’s rugby ground instead.

25. FMG Stadium Waikato

For most of the 20th century Hamilton had the perfect stadium name in “Rugby Park”, which it shared with Invercargill, Gisborne and every other no-nonsense city and town in the country. But a 1999 redevelopment saw it renamed Waikato Stadium before Farmers’ Mutual Group signed a 10-year naming rights deal in 2015 to rearrange the words to FMG Stadium Waikato.

24. Kennards Hire Community Oval

Twickenham has “The Stoop”; Eden Park has “Kennards Hire Community Oval”. It doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, but then how many other ovals on this list are available to be hired by the community? (An earlier version of this ranking wrongly claimed that Kennards Hire Community Oval couldn’t be hired by the community. According to a spokesperson from Eden Park it actually can – including the cricket pitch – and that’s why they called it Kennards Hire Community Oval. It has been moved up one spot in the ranking to reflect this.)

23. Cello Basin Reserve

It might sound like the first three words of the secure passphrase you’ve got written down somewhere in case you ever get locked out of your crypto wallet, but Cello Basin Reserve is in fact the current name of Wellington and New Zealand’s home of test cricket. Cello is a New Zealand-based “solution-led network partner” which could honestly mean anything. (Part of the deal involved them installing wifi at the ground.)

Cello Basin Reserve (Photo: MARTY MELVILLE/AFP via Getty Images)

22. Trust Bank Park

21. WestpacTrust Park

20. Westpac Park

The changing names of Hamilton’s cricket ground from 1990-2006 tells the complete story of a trans-Tasman banking merger, which is something not many stadiums in the world can boast. It has since reverted back to its original name of Seddon Park, though if the petition I’m drafting up is successful it will soon be known as Simon Doull Stadium. 

19. WestpacTrust Stadium

18. Westpac Stadium

The Australian banking giant was already mid-takeover when it secured the naming rights to Wellington’s new stadium in 1999. The fact that it immediately became better known as “the Cake Tin” probably tells you everything you need to know about the appeal of its sponsored name.

17. ASB Baypark Stadium

16. Trustpower Baypark Stadium

If you need any further proof that banks are making too much profit, just look at how many times they feature on this list. ASB assumed naming rights of the Mount Maunganui venue that’s been home to both the Bay of Plenty Steamers and a variety of motorsports in 2013, making a very generic stadium name (“Baypark Stadium” – the “AUT University” of stadia) even more boring. Power company Trustpower took over naming rights for the stadium in 2018 and failed to offer any significant improvement.

15. Western Bay Finance Stadium

14. Bluechip Stadium

The argument for unexciting bank and power companies sponsoring your stadium: it’s a lot less stressful than being sponsored by an embattled finance company. Before ASB and Trustpower, Baypark was sponsored by Western Bay Finance (a “turbulent relationship”) and Blue Chip (“troubled”). While the latter did make quite a cool stadium name, some things just aren’t worth the hassle.

13. Navigation Homes Stadium

Growers Stadium is a perfect name for a provincial rugby stadium, right up there with Yarrow Stadium in New Plymouth and second only to the various Rugby Parks. But to keep the lights on, Pukekohe’s home of Counties Manukau rugby currently goes by the name Navigation Homes Stadium, which is so close to sounding cool and yet really, really far.

12. Bayer Growers Stadium

Global healthcare and agriculture group Bayer had the right idea when they cautiously slipped their name in front of the already perfect Growers Stadium in 2009, but in reality a new sponsor trying to keep everybody happy by adding their name to the old name rarely works. Would have been better if they’d just gone all-in and called it Bayer Stadium.

11. Forsyth Barr Stadium

When you look at the words “Forsyth Barr” what do you see? The main image it conjures for me is an old-fashioned gentleman with a conspicuous moustache. Could I be thinking of Bruce Forsyth? Steve Parr? I can’t help but feel Forsyth Barr, which is actually an investment and wealth management service, is totally the wrong vibe for New Zealand’s first and only roofed stadium.

The All Blacks train at Forsyth Barr Stadium (Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images)

10. AMI Stadium

Something darkly ironic about Christchurch’s Lancaster Park being sponsored by an insurance company at the time it was written off beyond repair by the 2011 earthquake. This cursed moniker was then transferred to the temporary* new home of Canterbury rugby, formerly known as Rugby League Park, from 2012 to 2019.

9. QBE Stadium

As three-letter corporate acronyms go, insurance company QBE has a certain je ne sais quoi that few others can match. It’s all in the Q at the start, which makes it sound like an honour bestowed for services to North Harbour rugby (Troy Flavell, QBE). From 2014-2019, it helped the Albany sporting complex sound a lot fancier than it really is.

8. Go Media Stadium

Appreciate the sentiment, but I can’t help but feel this sets a dangerous precedent. If this is allowed then what’s to stop some disgruntled millionaire from coming along and sponsoring a Fuck The Media Stadium. Our stadia should probably have to be more impartial.

7. Coopers Catch Park

It might sound like a random A-League venue in semi-rural New South Wales but Coopers Catch Park was actually what Eden Park was called for one week in 2020 as part of an ASB marketing stunt. The bank renamed the stadium after a Kaikōura fish and chip shop doing it tough in Covid times – the sole game to be played at Coopers Catch was a Bledisloe Cup test in which the All Blacks battered the Wallabies 27-7. 

6. ECOlight Stadium

Hear me out: ECOlight Stadium is what Forsyth Stadium should be called. The energy-efficient lighting company, which sponsored Growers Stadium in Pukekohe for a couple of years in the 2010s, is a perfect vibe-match for Dunedin’s giant greenhouse – I can already hear a high country Otago accent saying “Going to the Highlanders at ECOlight at the weekend”, and it just sounds right. 

5. Orangetheory Stadium

It might sound like something that gets discussed at great length on the Joe Rogan podcast but Orangetheory is in fact the name of a gym franchise where everybody’s heart rate gets put up on a big screen. The current moniker of the Christchurch stadium originally known as Rugby League Park is one of the better stadium names in the country at the moment, though it’s arguably better if you don’t know what Orangetheory is.

4. Sky Stadium

Westpac held the naming rights to Wellington’s largest stadium pretty much from the moment it opened in 1999 until the 1st of January 2020. That should be enough time for it to form some kind of long-lasting attachment in people’s minds… and yet it’s already been forgotten because the new name is so good. It’s hard to imagine a more simple, perfect combination of words than “Sky Stadium” – sounds like a level in Super Mario Bros game.

3. Toll Stadium

“Toll Stadium” also sounds like it could be a Super Mario Bros level, but it’s the really hard one one where Bowser lives. The transport and logistics giant sponsored Whangārei’s newly-revamped Okara Park facility for most of the 2010s, lending the ground a fearsomely brutalist aura. In a fair and just world, Toll Stadium would have become the country’s most formidable rugby fortress. 

2. Ericsson Stadium

Part of the reason Go Media Stadium faces such an uphill battle to make a lasting impact is that the stadium already got it so right the first time. Cellular phone company Ericsson attached its name to Mount Smart in 1995, just in time for the Warriors inaugural season. It was a case of right place, right time – though the sponsorship ended in 2006, Ericsson remains almost as inextricably tied to the Warriors brand as DB Bitter, Vodafone and the Mad Butcher. 

Jade Stadium in 1999 (Photo: Paddy Dillon/Getty Images)

1. Jade Stadium

It took sports fans a long time to adjust to Lancaster Park’s new name back in 1998, but in hindsight there is something impossibly beautiful about the idea of a “Jade Stadium” – a phrase every bit as evocative and mysterious as London’s “Crystal Palace” football club. New Zealand software company Jade held the naming rights to the Christchurch stadium until 2007, and though it never exactly suited its industrial surrounds, Jade Stadium still stands as this country’s greatest ever stadium name.

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