Arataki has been given back its soul with the opening yesterday of the Arataki Community Centre on what used to be a horse paddock behind Baywave.
Speaker after speaker stressed the importance of the new council-funded building and how it would become the "heart and soul" of one of the city's least prosperous suburbs.
It was opened by Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby in a gathering of more than 300 people, with the ceremony interspersed with waiata and Maori action songs by about 140 members of the Arataki and St Thomas Moore schools' kapa haka groups.
"I hope you can develop a real sense of community around this centre," Mr Crosby said.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />
Reverend Marie Gilpin of St Peters Anglican Church, a member of the centre's community advisory group, said: "The kid in me wants to say wahoo because this has been going on for a very long time."
She said that without it, Arataki would have no soul. It was a place for people to gather and call home.
Rev Gilpin paid tribute to council parks and recreation staff and to councillors David Stewart and Wayne Moultrie.
"A great deal of goodwill has brought us to this day."
Terry Arnold of the advisory group said he sensed a new coming together of the people of Arataki and a sense of pride in the community centre.
"People are saying, we will make this work ... we have been given a lift up and not a handout by the council."
Former Mount police senior sergeant Tania Kura, now a police inspector in Wellington, praised the work of Community Constable Rachel Walker in rallying people to help kick off the project.
The official turning of the key to open the building was carried out by Arataki School pupil Breiton Tuaira.