The Bay of Plenty Steamers will play two more games at Tauranga Domain this season, as they begin to cut ties with Baypark Stadium as the preferred playing venue.
On the back of last year's successful return to the domain, the Steamers will open their 2016 Mitre 10 Cup campaign with an afternoon match at the venue and play another game there two weeks later.
The Steamers will host Taranaki on Saturday, August 20, and will also host Otago on Sunday, September 4.
Following the real buzz and electric atmosphere generated by last year's match at Tauranga Domain, we wanted to continue to recreate this unique experience for all our supporters. It has always been recognised that Baypark was never a good viewing experience for rugby matches.
The Bay of Plenty Rugby Union has also opted to hold three home games at Rotorua International Stadium - with no matches being played at Baypark during the upcoming season.
Bay of Plenty Rugby Union chief executive Mike Rogers said last year's August 30 Steamers game at the domain showed being closer to town added to the spectator experience and the atmosphere as well as being good for businesses and ultimately the city.
Mr Rogers said Tauranga Domain fixtures would continue to receive excellent support from the major stakeholders involved including Tauranga City Council, Tauranga's Civic Amenities Group (TCAG), Sky Television and the New Zealand Rugby Union.
"Following the real buzz and electric atmosphere generated by last year's match at Tauranga Domain, we wanted to continue to recreate this unique experience for all our supporters. It has always been recognised that Baypark was never a good viewing experience for rugby matches.
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"The decision to hold futures games at Tauranga Domain was all part of a conversation the union had been having with Bay Venues, Tauranga City Council and TCAG, and from a spectator point of view it's what the Tauranga community wants and the city needs," he said.
Last year's game at Tauranga Domain attracted an almost sellout crowd of 5000, much greater than the 3500 at Baypark Stadium last year, Mr Rogers said.
"It's a bit like going back to the future, but also looking to the future, and we believe it is how we can attract not just more rugby matches to the city but also more non-sporting events."
Mr Rogers said it was also about creating more opportunities for local businesses: "We see our future with Tauranga Domain and there is significant support for that. It's not about ditching Baypark. But if Bay Venues follows through with its plans to grow speed sports, then it makes sense to hold games at Tauranga Domain as we can no longer co-exist."
Mr Rogers said he was supportive of the proposal for a new $25 million boutique sports stadium at Tauranga Domain because it was the right size and would also be suitable for non-sport events.
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If the community comes out in support of these two games it increased Tauranga's chances of hosting semifinal and final games at the venue, he said.
Bay Venues chief executive Gary Dawson said he was not surprised by the union's decision.
"But if they wanted to stay we could have continued to co-exist. Baypark has always been more of a speed venue, it was never designed as a rugby stadium. We understand the decision and I think the time has come for our city to develop its own specific football stadium, which will not only be good for the sport but also for the whole."
Mayor Stuart Crosby said: "I think it's a great strategic move for Bay of Plenty Rugby. Tauranga Domain has always been the home of Tauranga rugby and Baypark is just not up to the standard we need to hold matches. The domain is far better for the players and spectators, and for the city."
Last year Tauranga's Civic Amenities Group chairman Paul Adams presented the proposal for the the $25 million boutique sports stadium at Tauranga Domain to council. Mr Adams, of Carrus Group, said he "complimented" the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union for its decision: "Hopefully it will mean Tauranga City Council will get in behind our proposal."
Mr Adams said the economic spinoffs from the domain games would be "huge", including benefiting accommodation providers and restaurants.
Chiefs Super Rugby chief executive Andrew Flexman earlier indicated Tauranga Domain was where they wanted to play, after opting to play pre-season matches in Rotorua.