Carmen is a social issues and rural reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Leaders hungry for major events

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ACTION-PACKED: Jetsprints, held at Bay Park, has attracted crowds of 17,000.PHOTO/FILE
ACTION-PACKED: Jetsprints, held at Bay Park, has attracted crowds of 17,000.PHOTO/FILE

Bay leaders believe Tauranga has the potential to become an events destination which will pump millions into the economy and drive tourism growth.

The project has gathered momentum after the success of the AIMS Games and ongoing developments to Bay Oval that would cement its rating as a world-class facility.

On Tuesday, the Black Caps beat Sri Lanka in a one-day international at Tauranga in front of a sellout crowd of about 7000 which was repeated again on Thursday when the Kiwis clinched another victory in the Twenty20 match.

Over the next 10 years Tauranga City Council is to pump about $7.7 million into events that have the potential to generate financial gains and showcase the city.

Mayor Stuart Crosby said the council had a strong leadership role to play and "I think as a city we are starting to mature as an event destination but first you have to have the facilities."

Sell-out crowds at the cricket earlier this week were a prime example of "build it and they will come," he said.

In his view, Mr Crosby said he would like to support the Bay Oval in completing their facility which would be followed by an upgrade at the Tauranga Domain.

"We should be a partner with the Bay Oval and finish off one thing before we start another."

Bay Park Stadium was becoming an adrenaline-based venue with the speedway, jetsprints and rally cross while the domain was perfectly placed to be an event and sporting facility, he said.

Council was looking at a portfolio of events to support and had developed a robust analysis of benefits that each event would do for the community.

"We are going to be quite picky about what events we invest into moving forward ... because ratepayers are contributors."

According to its statistics the AIMS Games had the biggest economic return, he said.

"It is massive event of world standards." Data showed in 2014 it generated 37,500 visitor nights and contributed $1.96 m to the Western Bay economy.

Bay Oval Trust chief executive Kelvin Jones said it had not crunched numbers but televised coverage of the one-day match went to "a massive worldwide audience". The Bay Oval needed funding to complete its pavilion and about $2 million for floodlights that would guarantee more international matches, he said. A new media tower valued at $400,000 was also scheduled to be erected in the next few weeks.

Tourism Bay of Plenty chairman Ian Smith said events were critical as they lifted the profile of the region and encouraged people to come back.

The event spend fell under tourism and visitors to the coastal Bay of Plenty spent $773 million to March 2015, an increase of $86 million from the previous year.

Mr Smith said the council was looking for events that were sustainable like jetsprints which was a resounding success as opposed to a one-off.

ENZED 2016 UIM Jetsprint World Championships event manager Pip Minnell said it was a nationally recognised event that had attracted crowds of up to 17,000 and 52 per cent of those spectators were visitors to the city. It had worked with partners for the good of the city and about 90 per cent of its budget was spent locally not including the revenue the event itself contributed to the economy, she said.

Hospitality New Zealand Bay of Plenty president Dean Teddy encouraged the council to spend more on events and facilities.

"It has a direct trickle-on effect to dining out and pre-event drinks and meals for restaurants. We would like to see bigger events that end up in the national headlines as well as the other small localised events."

The organisation was also all for, "a stadium without a running track and speedway," he said.

Motel Association of New Zealand Tauranga president Bruce Rutherford said at this time of the year 80 per cent of business was leisure compared to 20 per cent corporate.

More events meant the need for accommodation increased, he said, and "that is very important for our members."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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