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Official Review by Jeff Cheshire, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The University Oval is a relatively new home ground of the New Zealand Black Caps and as at 2012 has hosted four test matches. Located in the north end of Dunedin, it is a picturesque ground and has become the premier test match stadium in the South Island while remaining one of the top in the country. Cricket in Dunedin has been historically played at the iconic Carisbrook, but recent developments to the old ground at the University have seen it take over and now home to the Otago cricket team as well as hosting the Black Caps, the national cricket team of New Zealand.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The food and beverages available were quite impressive. While there isn't a shop as such, plenty of mobile food stalls park around the ground each with their own menu and prices. Consequently, there was plenty of variety to choose from, although sometimes it can take a bit of looking around to find what you want. Also different stalls were available on different days, so what's available may depend on what day it is.
Prices tend to vary depending on where you choose to purchase from. In general a snack type meal such as a chip box, a hot dog, candy floss or a sausage in bread will cost in the vicinity of $2-$4. As you begin to look at different combinations or things such as sandwiches and burgers the prices increase to somewhere between $6-$9. If you're looking for a good deal you'd be best served to have a look around and see what's available, but if you aren't keen to walk too far you needn't worry as there are plenty of stalls around the ground and there is always one handy. There are plenty of beverages available too. Beer is available for $6 and in case you were wondering, yes it is Speights for sale. Coffee costs between $2-$4 depending on what you are looking for, while soft drinks vary in price between the different food stalls.
The ground generally has a good cricket atmosphere, which builds up as the day progresses. Early on expect a reasonably calm sort of crowd relaxing in the sun which you can expect to increase in size as the day progresses. As the day progresses and the students on the bank become progressively drunker, expect the atmosphere to pick up and become more exciting.
There is a good buzz around the ground for the entire day, and especially before the first ball of the test you can almost feel the tension.
The ground is no more than a 20 minute walk from town, meaning there is plenty to do close by if you are looking to fill in some time after the day's play. The locals will welcome you if you are travelling and will make sure your stay is a good one, while the students will provide a livelier atmosphere to the town.
The area is a busy one, with almost all of Dunedin's sporting complexes being located down there. To go with this, the University is merely a five minute walk away so expect to see a lot of students around, while workers also tend to park in the area given its close proximity to town.
There are a large variety of restaurants in town, many of which are within comfortable walking distance of the ground. The Great Taste is a popular choice for many, providing an All You Can Eat Buffet for just $19, with drinks costing an extra $4 which includes unlimited free refills. There is a great selection available in the buffet with plenty of different types of food available.
As is usually the case with cricket, the involvement of fans depends largely upon the weather. If the sun is shining and the day warm, expect a crowd that will become more excitable as the day progresses. By the afternoon session various chants begin and the whole crowd will get involved making every ball that much more exciting.
If you aren't so much into this side of things, the grandstand provides a more formal viewing experience and allows you to appreciate the skill and technique of the players rather than just looking for the outcome of each ball.
Parking can be a problem as the area is one that is usually very full when there isn't a major sporting event on. However, if you are there for the start of day's play you shouldn't have a problem. Try heading past the Oval and take the first left, you will more often than not find something down there and if not just continue to follow the road around and you will likely find a space within five minutes walk.
This is where the problems end though, as once at the ground access couldn't run any more smoothly. Pre-buying tickets would be advisable if your intention is to be there for the first ball, but if you plan to arrive later in the day the queues at the ticket booth are relatively non-existent and getting in takes no time whatsoever.
Full match tickets can be purchased for $45, or $35 if you are a student with an ID. If you are planning to go for three or more days, this would be the best option as it works out cheaper than buying three single day passes. Single day passes can be purchased for $20, or $15.50 with student ID.
You can't complain with these prices as many stadiums around the world charge closer to $100 for a single day pass.
While the New Zealand test team has struggled against the top teams in the world in recent years, they have a good record at University Oval and usually put up a good fight making for a good game.
The University Oval is a very picturesque ground and is a very nice ground to watch cricket for. The old grandstand provides a feel for the history of the ground whilst the more recently developed banks provide a cleaner feel than what another grandstand would have done.
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