John is a senior reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Growth sees turfs proposed

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Artist's impression of the Blake Park Hockey Turf. Illustration/supplied
Artist's impression of the Blake Park Hockey Turf. Illustration/supplied

Unprecedented growth in junior hockey has convinced the Tauranga City Council to seek public feedback on pledging $600,000 towards the $2.5 million cost of building two new artificial turfs at Blake Park.

Tauranga Hockey Association board chairman Peter Puchner said they had become a victim of their own success. Conservative growth forecasts showed a third turf would be needed by 2019.

"Junior player numbers have exceeded any of our expectations."

Based on the success of the junior development programme and current numbers, the two existing full-sized turfs would most likely have reached their capacity by next year. The association was seeking to build a new full-sized turf and a half-sized turf.

Mr Puchner said the sport was growing at twice the city's population rate, with unprecedented growth in the number of Year 9 players at Tauranga Boys' and Girls' colleges. "We are facing a huge challenge."

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The city's network of artificial turfs were at capacity, with the Blake Park fields generally used from 7am to 10.30pm seven days a week.

A report to the council said that much of the impact of the lack of capacity was being felt by senior players. Adult leagues were being forced to play later and later in the day, with games often finishing after 10.30pm.

"This is one of the most significant reasons why senior hockey has not seen the same growth as junior hockey," Mr Puchner said.

Association general manager Mike Kerrisk said the retention of players in the sport was outstanding, with nearly 2500 winter players registered with the association in 2015.

This did not include social and summer hockey leagues, which added another 450 to 500 people.

The council agreed to go out for public consultation on funding $600,000, or 25 per cent of the costs of the new turfs at Blake Park through the 2017-18 Annual Plan, allowing construction to take place in 2018.

Mayor Stuart Crosby said a decision was required as part of the 2016-17 Annual Plan so the association could approach other funding organisations later this year.

"There needs to be a reasonably strong commitment so they can go to other community funders ... community sport should always come first rather than the flash stuff," he said.

Mr Crosby was responding to comments by councillor Steve Morris that the council would be coming under pressure to fund a new stadium from rates.

Councillor Rick Curach said the council needed to be putting its money into the areas with the highest priority.

He said the association was skilled at asking for money, but the priority could be somewhere else.

"I would like to hear back from other codes saying 'hey what about us'," Mr Curach said.

Tauranga's booming sport of hockey:

* 7.5 per cent of city children aged five to 15 are registered players

* 17 per cent growth in player numbers since 2010

* 80 per cent of registered players live in Tauranga

- Bay of Plenty Times

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