Bay hopes to lure world champs

By Anita Moran

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HOT BOAT: Tauranga Jet sprint driver Tristan Hynds (right) and his navigator Matthew Fagan.PHOTO/JOHN BORREN
HOT BOAT: Tauranga Jet sprint driver Tristan Hynds (right) and his navigator Matthew Fagan.PHOTO/JOHN BORREN

A television audience of millions will be fixed on Tauranga if the success of the award-winning Baypark Jet Sprints is enough to lure the world championship series to New Zealand.

Discussions will be held at the 2014 jetsprints world series, under way in the United States, regarding a bid to host the 2016 event at ASB Baypark and Meremere.

The joint bid from Jetsprints Bay of Plenty, Tourism Bay of Plenty, Tauranga City Council and the New Zealand Jet Sprint Association would see rounds of the event held in Tauranga and Meremere.

Jetsprints Bay of Plenty event director Pip Minnell said the world series had a potential international television audience of 38 million and was attended by teams and supporters from New Zealand, the United States, Canada and Australia.

"We'd certainly hope to pack the stadium," she said.

The two-week break between rounds would also mean guest nights, tourism spend and huge benefit for local businesses, she said.

The success of the inaugural Baypark Jetsprints, which attracted a crowd of nearly 16,000, had lifted the profile of the sport, which was traditionally raced in more remote areas in front of crowds of 1500 to 5000.

Mrs Minnell said the jetsprints captured Kiwis' love of V8s, motor racing and boating, and the Baypark event combined these things in a stadium environment.

"We've really become the innovators with the sport on a global level," she said.

The Baypark Jetsprints, held in January, recently beat the NRL Auckland Nines, and five other national finalists, to be named Best Emerging Event at the New Zealand Association of Event Professionals Awards in Christchurch.

Head judge and World Cup 2011 chief Martin Snedden said organisers of the Baypark Jetsprints impressed the judges with their innovative ideas.

"The teams behind this event have demonstrated to others that solutions can be found to seemingly immovable obstacles. Excavating a popular rugby pitch to create a jetsprint track was a clever and totally out-of-the-box solution," he said.

ASB Arena commercial manager Ervin McSweeney said organisers knew they were taking a risk digging water channels across Baypark.

"We just knew that we were venturing straight into the unknown," he said.

However, the event had left no lasting scars heading into the ITM Cup season.

The industry win was a surprise among such a high calibre of finalists, he said.

"I thought that if the judges really looked at the innovation and the difference and the newness and the success of it, and what it meant for the future ... we had a chance," he said.

Mrs Minnell said the award was fantastic for the profile of the event and gave it kudos and recognition within the industry.

It reflected the quality delivery of the event and proved there was robust event feasibility and risk management behind it, she said.

Secured for the next three years, the 2015 Baypark Jetsprints will be extended to a two-day event over Auckland Anniversary weekend.

Mr McSweeney hoped the first-time spectators would be back.

"We are looking forward to trying to enhance the event and make it bigger, better and more exciting," he said.

National MP Simon Bridges and his wife Natalie attended the event, which Mrs Bridges described as a real spectacle.

"I think there was quite a sense of pride that we were hosting it. It was definitely a real buzz about that event. It was extreme the lengths that they'd gone to. Just an amazing amount of planning but well worth it because it certainly brought in the crowd," she said. "I hope that people get behind it again."

Not usually a fan of spectator sports, Mrs Bridges said it was a thrilling event to watch and the crowd was clearly excited. "It's quite a spectacle. Everyone was just so impressed with what was achieved to get it there," she said.

Tauranga resident Riki Walls said the event was awesome. "Especially considering it was the first one and the first time the jetsprints had ever been held in a stadium."

The event was a great use of Baypark, he said.

"I would go again with the kids and would encourage friends and family to do the same," he said.

Tickets for the event will go on sale in October.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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