PM opens Dame Susan's fitness centre

By Kiri Gillespie

It was an unlikely sight - Prime Minister John Key wearing a businss shirt and suit pants playing squash with Dame Susan Devoy who was barefoot in a swanky dress.

The prime minister was in Tauranga yesterday to officially open the Dame Susan Devoy Squash and Fitness Centre after the sporting champion asked him at last year's Halberg Awards.

Mr Key recalled reading her letter of request on his way home that night.

"Then she kind of wrote in block capital letters 'don't let me down or I will hunt you down'."

Mr Key used to play squash in his younger years and graciously accepted the opportunity to open the centre yesterday - and Dame Susan's offer of a game.

"I must admit, I was thinking 'I'm going to play Dame Susan Devoy, world champion, this is going to be a nightmare'.

"Then I saw how [Prince] Harry took on Usain Bolt."

Mr Key barely broke a sweat in his salmon business shirt and suit pants, while Dame Susan stepped out of her high heels for the friendly match.

The two played briefly in front of a crowd of onlookers, which included children from St Mary's Catholic School and Tauranga Boys' College.

Dame Susan said she tried for a long time to get Mr Key on board but the Christchurch earthquake, Rena, Rugby World Cup 2011 and the general elections got in the way. Eventually he responded with a text saying he would be there.

"We really wanted him to be here. What better than to have the Prime Minister in your place? That's quite important to us," Dame Susan said.

Dame Susan said she was honoured to have her name on the building "but this is the culmination of a long, long project, so for all of us this is a dream come true".

Centre manager Karl Brown said they had already signed up more than 100 new members.

"It has been huge. It's wonderful. I think it's because it's a new facility and having something new is always attractive.

"We are attracting more families."

Mr Brown said he and members of a relocation committee spent "thousands of hours" trying to get the centre up and running and, now it had arrived, he was looking forward to having barbecues on the deck with members and their families.



- Bay of Plenty Times

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