An Optimistic Way Forward with the Opening of the National Football Stadium in Papua New Guinea

Rarely have I seen such joy and happiness at the opening of one of our venues as I experienced at the opening match at PNG’s new National Football stadium in Port Moresby earlier this month (6th February).

The 15000 seat, international quality stadium was completely full more than an hour before kick-off for the Rugby League trial match, featuring the local heroes, the SP Hunters, who will call the stadium home this year.

The redeveloped stadium was designed by Populous, constructed by CPB Contractors (formerly Leighton Contractors) and funded by the resources company Oil Search, for the people of PNG.

And PNG’s National Football Stadium is a triumph on so many levels.

It is designed to host international events. It was delivered within a limited budget (costing AUD $88M) yet it has the same sightlines and close proximity to the action as Queensland’s Suncorp Stadium.

Not only that, it is sustainable, and can be developed and adapted further over time.

In addition, many of the stadium elements were manufactured or fabricated overseas and shipped into PNG, including the structural steel components, modular seating system and fabric roof.

Our experience around the world has shown that a stadium can often be a catalyst for positive social change.

It was six years ago when I first went to the original stadium in PNG, and it was a very basic stadium, tired, and in need of some TLC. But right from our earliest discussions, everyone we talked to was excited about the redevelopment.  Our experience in the UK after the soccer stadia disasters in the late 80s and early 90s had taught us that if you treat people with respect and provide appropriate quality facilities, people will respond positively and respect them.

Rugby League is the main sport in PNG, a young and emerging nation where communities are far apart. People are passionate about the game and the sport has become a great way of engaging with the community, especially young people.

Over the past few years, people in Port Moresby have watched their stadium redevelop. They knew it was something different, international quality but unique to PNG with the use of traditional colours of black, red and yellow in the patterns and textures of the stadium finishes.

People were excited as the opening match drew close. Finally they could see a game in their new stadium.

Everywhere we walked on opening night we met gratitude; people said thank you. It was humbling.  I got the feeling people are going to cherish and look after their new stadium.

The intention was to provide the community and the country with a first class facility for Rugby League. But I see the stadium as more than that. I think it is a metaphor for where the country sees itself heading and how it is seen by the outside world. And I am very optimistic for the future of PNG.

  • (C) Scott Burrows Photographer
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