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Wellington welcomes sevens' 'fresh start'

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 21/05/2017

There's no hard feelings from Wellington mayor Justin Lester after the announcement of the New Zealand leg of the World Sevens Series going to Hamilton, but the Wellington Chamber of Commerce is calling it an "extremely disappointing outcome".

The announcement on Monday morning that Hamilton had the sevens for the next two years was met with an upbeat attitude from Mr Lester, who says the decision is a chance for Wellington to refresh its events calendar.

The sevens had lost its allure and dwindling ticket sales and crowd numbers meant it was the right time for the event to move on, he said.

"It might be that the best thing is for the event to get a fresh start somewhere else and re-invent itself.

"For us, Wellington's events calendar needs to be constantly evolving to keep people's interest and this decision gives us an opportunity to refresh our events and look at new opportunities."

The two-day tournament, which kicked off in Wellington in 2000, and used to sell out within minutes, has been marred by drunken fans, arrests and disorder in latter years.

An attempt to re-invent the sevens as family-friendly this years was a marketing failure, with Westpac Stadium barely half-full each day.

Mr Lester said Wellington had a reputation for world-class food and drink events, a thriving arts and culture scene, along with sports and a growing tech sector to focus on.

Wellington Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Milford says losing out to Hamilton stings.

"This is an extremely disappointing outcome, though hardly surprising, given the event's decline in recent years.

"The writing had been on the wall for some time, and despite our best efforts, the city just couldn't entice the crowds [any longer]."

The hospitality and accommodation sector will feel the loss most, he said.

New Zealand Rugby chief strategy and operations officer Nigel Cass says moving the tournament from Wellington was not made lightly, but it was time to begin a new chapter.

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