Arena use beats all predictions

By James Fuller

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Tauranga's $42 million TECT Arena has attracted 325,000 users in its first year - nearly 30 per cent more than predicted.

Financial results also revealed TECT recorded an operating profit of $53,204 in its first nine months to June.

The news comes as administrators of the state-of-the-art facility prepare today's open-day birthday celebrations.

Ervin McSweeney, Baypark CEO, said the arena's first major landmark was a time for reflection.

"It gives us a chance to take a breath and reflect on what a great first year it has been in terms of usage and the way the local community has embraced it," he said. "It's been a real success story.

"I could count the number of complaints on one hand, which is quite remarkable for a year's activity and an undertaking of this scale.

"We were predicting up to 250,000 people would use it. It's turned out there's been around 325,000, which is a significant increase on what we were expecting.

"That's community sports, people attending conferences and shows, watching sporting events, cultural events, everything that's gone on."

He said the user numbers translated into a turnover figure of $1.2 million for the first three quarters. "The performance against initial budget was a positive variance of over $100,000."

Mr McSweeney, who took up his position as building commenced in February 2010, said TECT's versatility had been a key to success.

"It's flexibility allows us to change from one event to the next very quickly and effectively," he said. "Events staged here range from children's mini-volleyball and basketball, through community sport, to high-profile international sporting events, cultural events like kapa haka, musical concerts, expos, shows and multi-sports events like the AIMS Games.

"Whilst that leads to us being very busy at times it also creates an attractive schedule which we're able to stage for local people to enjoy and participate in."

Former New Zealand international wicketkeeper-batsman McSweeney said there had been a long-held desire for a facility of this nature.

"People wanted a facility that would attract major events and they could be proud of as an amenity," he said. "At the same time it's not an amenity which is beyond people's reach."

Community sports accounted for 62 per cent ( more than 200,000 people) of all TECT users, said Mr McSweeney, whose previous positions included being manager of Wellington's Basin Reserve and Cricket Wellington CEO.

He said the venue's location, at the intersection of two state highways and nestled between Mount Maunganui, Papamoa and Tauranga, meant it was ideally placed for the area's continued growth.

The growth in user numbers also showed no signs of slowing.

"It looks like it's going to be a very busy six months ahead," he said. "We have the Tauranga Police CIB Charity Auction Luncheon in a couple of weeks, which is a huge event. That attracts up to 1300 people. A couple of weeks later we have the New World Netball Quad Series featuring Australia, New Zealand, England and South Africa. Then we have a number of events running up to Christmas including the Lord of the Ring: Tauranga Corporate Charity Boxing Challenge."

Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic CEO Sheryl Dawson said the opening of the TECT Arena a year ago had been the realisation of a dream she had been pursuing since the early 1990s. Mrs Dawson was among a group of Bay people who had pushed hard for a new indoor sporting facility.

"It's a dream come true and gives you a tremendous sense of pride to see how it is being used now," she said. "It makes you realise all those trips to council meetings, where you thought nothing was going to happen, weren't wasted.

"What we are seeing in the high user number is that, a, it was much needed and, b, it's a wonderful venue for all types of activities whether that's sporting or otherwise."

Mrs Dawson said the facility from a netball perspective was second to none, a fact evidenced by its use by "community, regional, national and international players".

"Everyone who comes here raves about the facility," she said.

Tauranga National MP Simon Bridges said the 13,000sq m arena had exceeded expectations.

"I have been to dozens of events there and the feedback I get is what a quality venue it provides."

Mr Bridges said it allowed Tauranga to host larger quality events.

"I have no doubt that this is, and will continue to be, of significant benefit to our local economy, as local cafes and restaurants and motels and hotels all get business they wouldn't have otherwise," he said. "The economic flow-on effects from the TECT Arena must be substantial.

"Lastly, the TECT Arena should be seen as a city asset that will provide an inter-generational dividend. It will be with us for the long term and I've no doubt our children and grandchildren will get as much use out of it as we do in coming years."

Today's open day starts at 10am and features paintball, trampolining, lolly scrambles, noodle hockey, mini jeeps and more. Neighbouring Bay Speedway will host car races from 1pm until late afternoon.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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