Inside All Blacks Experience: first look at multimillion dollar interactive project at SkyCity

How accurate is your kicking and throwing? Are your reflexes good enough for you to touch only rugby balls -never soccer balls – on an interactive display screen to beat the other side?

If you want to test those abilities and explore the story of our deep passion for sport, then the new multimillion-dollar All Blacks Experience in Auckland is for you.

“How do All Blacks handle stress?” asks ex-All Black Ian Jones, taking the Herald on the first tour and telling why life-size digital screens test physical ability and touch screens test mental dexterity.

The 2000sq m attraction is on level four, 88 Federal St, ex-SkyCity convention space. It was planned for seven years and took nearly two to build, starting last February.

The smell of liniment pervades “changing rooms” where digital images of All Blacks tell you about their lives and feelings.

Visitors “walk” the venue tunnel towards the roar of the crowd – which gets louder. Then it’s on to green turf and the stark white centre line to stare down the men in black, visitors playing the role of opponents.

A 4m tall screen puts visitors face-to-face with a larger-than-life test match haka. Jones said the film shown was from a Hamilton match last year. TJ Perenara leads the Ka Mate Haka and visitors face that team, then captained by Kieran Read, flanked by Aaron Smith.

All Blacks, Māori All Blacks, Sevens and Black Ferns are all honoured in the project by New Zealand Rugby and Ngāi Tahu Tourism in the venture where whakataukī are prominent.

Dame Julie Christie, the board chairwoman, said it was the first major tourism project developed in Auckland for years “and the first opening post-Covid. It takes you on the journey of what it takes to become an All Black, starting in the small communities and kids wanting to play rugby at the highest level, then what you’ve got to do to make it.

“Coaches and trainers take you on the journey of shaping the All Blacks … what it’s like to walk out on to a park and face the haka, then in the last part you get to test your skills against the players.

“It makes people laugh, cry, feel very emotional, able to eyeball Kieran Read in the middle of the park. I think it’s a very moving experience,” Christie said.

The project was led by an advisory group of double Rugby World Cup-winningex-All Black captain Richie McCaw, Jones, Tana Umaga, Ian Kirkpatrick, Black Fern Sarah Hirini (nee Goss) and the Rugby Players Association.

The exhibition, which opens tomorrow, offers 45-minute guided tours showcasing sports using hi-tech laser and digital displays: Buck Shelford appears in a kaitaka (cloak) behind glass, talking in Te Reo Pakeha and Te Reo Māori.

A 160m long by 2.4m high wall, awa manawa (unbroken flowing heartline), designed by Ngāi Tahu artist Dave Burke, names every All Black alongside their number.

Seventeen staff have been employed.

Ed Burak of lead designers and researchers EQMade said much of the technology was invented here, customised for displays.

Project manager EQMade worked with other businesses Workshop e, Satellite Media, Creature Post and Toulouse, Burak said.

“It’s all about technology, using things like lasers to pick up movement and software for the agility test in the passing and lineouts. We’ve used techniques from theatres, museums, audiovisual and sports simulators.”

• Tickets $50 per adult, $30 per child, $130 family two adults, two children.

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