Sports village proposed for North Harbour

By Rowena Orejana

Annabelle Galvez and her family love the sport of badminton. But they don't love the problems they are having trying to find somewhere to play it on the North Shore.

It's impossible to just walk in and book a court at Badminton North Harbour, so the family and a group of friends decided to form its own club to try to get preferential treatment.

"It is one of the reasons we formed Flites NZ," says Annabelle.

The club is composed of Filipino migrants who played badminton together in their homeland. They formed a New Zealand counterpart so they could become affiliated with Badminton North Harbour and get priority when booking courts. The club secured two playing nights only after another club had bowed out.

Even then, Mrs Galvez says they still have to book two weeks in advance.

"But at least we can get a game now," she says.

Paul Bradshaw, chief executive of Harbour Badminton, says its courts at Forrest Hill are at capacity.

"If you want to book a court at peak times, especially in terms two and three, you just can't get one," he says.

Indoor racquet sports have grown dramatically with the influx of Asian migrants, for whom these are traditional sports. Asians comprise 18 per cent of North Shore's population, double the 9 per cent national average identified in the 2006 census.

Mr Bradshaw explored the possibility of having additional courts, but says access and parking are issues that may impede consent.

In Albany, across from North Harbour Stadium, Tennis Northern is also at capacity - despite its six international standard indoor courts.

"We've got six of the less than 20 indoor courts in the city. So, in terms of the indoor profession, we're at busting point for good parts of the year," says David Frank, chief executive officer.

The two men got together and decided the Albany site could be better suited to a bigger centre catering to both sports, plus two others. Taking North Harbour Table Tennis and Squash Auckland on board, the four sports clubs have proposed the creation of a Community Sports Village and presented their idea to Auckland Council. The project would cost $15-$20 million.

"I think it's fair to say that some of the grass roots sports probably directly or indirectly receive a lot of support. Whereas sports like tennis, whether indoor or outdoor, we've been going alone for a time. We really would like to see council embracing these sports," says Mr Frank.

The new community sports village would house an additional three indoor tennis courts, eight badminton courts, 14 regular tables for table tennis and six squash courts to accommodate the increased demand during peak playing hours.

"We really believe we're starting to model something that's got legs. There's real excitement, It will be the next step forward for community sports here. And this location is perfect for it," says Mr Bradshaw.

Mr Frank, who has run leisure centres overseas, says they plan to take advantage of the four sports' synergies.

"The idea for us would be to create enough energy from the other sports with a critical mass of people coming in," he explains.

They want it to be a hub for entire families, with a cafe and gym attached. Parents could use those during their child's game of squash or tennis.

"What we want to do here is to provide a facility that is accessible to the community but has a sensible business model around it. That will enable people to play the sport without having to pay an astronomical amount of money to do so," he says.

Mr Bradshaw adds that it's telling the four sports have united to go into the project willingly. "There are a lot of sports groups' projects that have been dragged together because they have to," he says. "Their facilities are falling down on them and they have to do what they do to survive.

"But, in our case, we got together because we're a group that's passionate about our sports."

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- The Aucklander

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