Trafalgar Park, Nelson

Trafalgar Park is Nelson City’s premiere enclosed sports and open-air events centre. It is an international sports venue, and a central city location for other outdoor events such as music concerts.

Go to the It'sOn website and type "trafalgar park" in quick search for events to see what's on.


Trafalgar Park sits on the East bank of the Maitai River, opposite Rutherford Park. It is bounded by Queen Elizabeth II Drive (North), Trafalgar Street (East), Hathaway Court (South) and the Maitai River (West). It is located within minutes of the Nelson CBD.

SuperRugby and Rugby World Cup 2011

Trafalgar Park usually provides seating for 3,000 – 5,000 for the ITM Cup, New Zealand’s annual professional rugby union competition. In 2015 a 4,000  capacity spectator stand was installed on the east side of the field and an additional 2,000 person stand is available for the southern end for the large events.

It has also hosted four Super 14 games with attendance numbers between 13,000 to almost 17,000 in 2008. The most recent game to attract a large crowd of 15,000 people was the Canterbury Crusaders V the Hurricanes on the 29th of May 2015

Three Rugby World Cup 2011 games were held at the Park and saw crowd numbers grow from 12,415 for the Italy vs Russia match (game 1) to 13,977 for the Italy vs USA match (game 2),  to 16,307 for the Australia vs Russia match (game 3).

Recent additions


The tallest and heaviest additions were the eight large light fixtures erected by using massive cranes in June 2011. All together, the fixtures house 192 floodlights that make the Park about three times brighter during night games than the old lights, bringing it up to broadcast standards.

The new lights are designed to focus the light inward toward the Park with only minimal spill on the neighbouring homes.


The Park is the first in New Zealand to use recycled glass sand which forms the base of the turf. Recycled glass sand is an environmentally sustainable material because it is readily available and it doesn’t take away from existing natural resources of sand that are in limited supply. The amount used for the Trafalgar Park carpet turf equals approximately 7% of the glass recycled annually in the South Island.


The new main gate – the Trafalgar Gate on the corner of Trafalgar Street and Hathaway Terrace – is ready to welcome ticket holders and ticket buyers.

The Maitai Gate built at the end of Hathaway Terrace – is ready to welcome ticket holders and ticket buyers.

The Wainui Gate on Trafalgar Street across from Wainui Street – is ready to welcome ticket holders.


New toilet stalls included at the main entrance, and a new toilet block in the northwest corner behind the western stands.


The small power substation at the front of the Trafalgar Gate which used to be in the way, now has benches attached to it, the exterior used to display event posters and the surrounding area is now landscaped.


Trafalgar Park was originally owned and developed by a private company called ‘The Nelson Athletic Ground Company’, which developed the grounds in the very early days of Nelson’s settlement.

Originally known as The Mudflat Recreation Ground, Trafalgar Park was built on eight acres of reclaimed land by the Nelson Athletic Ground Company.

The athletic ground was reclaimed from tidal flats of the Maitai River. Sheep were used to maintain the grass and were removed before any major events.

When the land wars broke out in Taranaki in the 1860s, Nelson was a flourishing settlement. As well as sending troops to Taranaki, the Taranaki Land War refugees were welcomed to settle in Nelson.

A year later in 1892 an endowment from Nelson businessman and benefactor, Thomas Cawthron was used to add more land to the Park. On July 6, 1891 the Nelson City Council bought the land.

Initial funds for the City Council to purchase Trafalgar Park in 1891 came from the remainder of a loan established to help Taranaki Land War refugeesThe Trafalgar Park Purchasing Act 1891 states the Park would be used 'as a recreation ground and for other purposes connected with the athletic sports and other recreations of the inhabitants of the City of Nelson and the surrounding districts'.

Trafalgar Park Grand Opening

A grand opening celebrated with a football match 'Fifteen V Eighteen' with players selected from the various town clubs was held 21 April 1888. No doubt this was influenced by the first game of football held on May 14 1870, at the Botanics just down the road, where a new version of football was trialled, later to be called rugby.

For more information on the first rugby match in New Zealand can be found on The Prow website.

Trafalgar Park background 1880 - 2011

Trafalgar Park had been used for cricket as early as the 1880s, with other sports added over the years. The Trafalgar Park Stadium was developed in the 1950’s when the Rugby Union obtained a renewable lease for the winter season at the park. This allowed the union along with the council to undertake some capital improvements and to build the eastern grandstand and install the sunshine seats on the western embankment. The grounds were used for all manner of recreational activities however the main users at that time were athletics, cricket and rugby.

An Australian cricket tour just before World War II drew a big crowd to the game against a local XI at Trafalgar Park. The Mayor declared a half day holiday and extra trains were laid on to bring in the country fans. After a night of heavy rain, the game began at 2.30pm on a wicket described as 'in fair order though on the heavy side' in the Colonist newspaper. The Australians were declared at tea time on the second day of play, winners by just ten wickets against the provincial side.

(Information from the Colonial Album series, supplied to the Nelson Mail by the Nelson Provincial Museum in 1987).

There were little further developments at the park until the mid 1980’s when a final reclamation along the Maitai River bank gave the park its current shape and allowed development of the No. 2 field to compensate for the land lost to the state highway development.

In 1996 the Trafalgar Park Pavilion, was built on the western side of the field, which greatly improved the facilities available. The installation of arena floodlighting at the park opened up opportunities for night-time events, in 1997.

An upgrade to Trafalgar Park that increased the seating capacity to more than 2,600 was completed in February 2008. Two new grandstands were built on either side of the Trafalgar Park Pavilion that feature covered seating for 1,360 seats.

Significant improvements are being made in preparation for the hosting of three Rugby World Cup 2011 matches starting September 2011.

Royal Visitor in 1954

Perhaps the Park's most notable visitor did not come to play any sport. The visit from Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in 1954 was Nelson's first from a reigning monarch.

Plenty of 'baby boomers' around Nelson remember a big day in their primary school years, when they went to Trafalgar Park to see the Queen. The visit from Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in 1954 was Nelson's first from a reigning monarch.
The programme stated:'Sat, Jan 16: Some thousands of children will assemble at Park by 11am and will be entertained there during the day. Procession of Decorated Floats, leaving Tahunanui 10.30 am for Trafalgar Park. Procession then followed by children through the town. Children returned afterwards to the Park.'

In the evening, the park was crowded with spectators for displays from marching girls, axmen, Scottish dancers, bands and the sword club.

Opera in the Park Concerts

In recent years the Park has been used for music concerts and other entertainment as well. One of the most attractive aspects of Trafalgar Park is its proximity to the Nelson central business district.

In 2008 the Sealord Opera in The Park the premier event of Nelson City Council’s summer festival, featured internationally acclaimed diva, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. To mark this popular event’s 10th anniversary and the 150th anniversary of Nelson being given city status by Queen Victoria, this special concert was organised.

Dame Kiri te Kanawa, one of the world’s best loved and respected sopranos, returned to New Zealand for a one-off performance in Nelson.

Heritage notes

Listed features around the park include the old fire station building in Halifax Street (now a real estate office), and the large Pin Oak growing between the croquet lawns and Halifax Street is listed and protected as a 'Landscape' tree.

You can find more information about the history of Trafalgar Park on The Prow website.

Please note all Nelson City Council facilities are smokefree.