Let the celebrations begin

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    ILT Stadium Southland manager Nigel Skelt and his team are organising a year full of events to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the venue. Photo: Luisa Girao

    WHEN it comes to planing events for Invercargill’s ILT Stadium Southland, manager Nigel Skelt takes inspiration from one of the worlds’ greatest thinkers.

    As Walt Disney would say can dream it, you can do it.”

    The biggest and most popular venue in Southland is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and a year-long of events was planned to mark the occasion, including an attempt to be included in The Guinness World of Records, he said.

    Mr Skelt, who has worked at the stadium since it opened, said he was proud to see how the venue had grown.

    More than 12,000 people used the facility each week, he said.

    “Back in 2000, we used to have 12 events a year. This year, we will have 80. It is the most used facility in Southland.”

    Choosing the highlights from those 20 years was hard.

    However, the SIT Volleyball Festival in 2014 when more than 500 tonnes of sand was trucked into the SIT Zero Fees Velodrome; the choreographed performance of El Caballo Blanco: The Dance of the White Stallions in 2012; and The World Shearing and Wool Handling Championships in 2017 were among the most challenging events to promote.

    “We transformed the stadium into a shearing shed with 4500 sheep. In the beginning, they told us we were crazy but the event was simply fantastic and we won an international award for it. We turned the dream to reality, against all the odds,” he said with a laugh.

    The annual ILT Variety Christmas show also held a special place in his career and life.

    He experienced the most heart-touching moments being “a close friend of Santa Claus”.

    “The joy that brings to kids believe it will never be matched in my lifetime. It’s an incredible, overwhelming and humbling experience.

    “Sitting there with those kids saying to you I just want mum and dad to be back together, Santa.

    “It is incredibly humbling to listen to their stories and to give them a feel-good factor. That is what it’s about.”

    In the past two decades, ILT Stadium Southland featured several positive stories as it hosted international competitions, traditional community events and became the home of Southland sport.

    However, in 2010, the ILT Stadium Southland made headlines when its roof collapsed under the weight of snow.

    Mr Skelt described it as a “hiccup” in the stadium’s journey and said lessons were learned.

    “It was really sad but it tested our resolve… I believe few people in life have a second chance. We certainly took the knowledge and we created something for the community that will stand the test of time and it’s recognised worldwide as an outstanding facility.

    “I guess through disaster, it created a new opportunity. Stressful as it was… I guess this one thing we need to be aware of: we should always look after the current facilities first before looking perhaps to new ventures.”

    Using the roof event as a learning curve, the maintenance of the facilities was high on the priorities for the team and the trust of the roof of the velodrome was set to happen in April, he said.

    For this year’s celebration, all the events were being organised for the community’s benefit.

    Two international sports matches and an international entertainment event were in the pipeline for the celebration.

    “It is very exciting but we can’t say anything yet because we still need to sign the agreements.”

    In April, Mr Skelt will also organise an attempt to be included in The Guinness Book of Records with the biggest pillow fight in the world.

    “We will invite everyone to come in their PJs and have a massive pillow fight. I bet it’s gonna be a lot of fun.”

    His inspiration from Walt Disney returns when asked what dream event he would like to see held at the stadium.

    An official Disney production in Invercargill was his answer.

    “It would be incredibly satisfying to bring this to our community especially for our children. It won’t be if we can do it, it’s about when we can do it. It needs to be in my working career.

    “If you can dream it, you can do it. I’m a great fan of Walt Disney and believe Disney World is one of the most magical places on Earth. We are trying to make Stadium Southland the next most magical for our children and for the future generation. Let’s create experiences they might not think they can have. We owe it to them.”

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