Tauranga's goal: Lead Pacific in hoops

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Lindsay Tait of Choppers goes for a lay-up against Junior Tall Blacks in the HoopNation basketball competition. Photo/Bevan Conley
Lindsay Tait of Choppers goes for a lay-up against Junior Tall Blacks in the HoopNation basketball competition. Photo/Bevan Conley

A tournament shooting to become the top basketball event for the Asia-Pacific region has been signed up for three years in Tauranga's ASB Arena.

The highly regarded HoopNation aims to attract up to 840 players from New Zealand and overseas to Tauranga for Labour Weekend.

"We are trying to raise the profile of the sport," organiser Paul Berridge said.

Tauranga City Council has agreed to sponsor HoopNation for $70,000 for two years as part of major events funding totalling $630,000. Sponsorship drops to $20,000 for the third year.

The biggest chunk of money allocated was $200,0000 to allow the council to bid for more limited-over international cricket matches at Bay Oval.

Mr Berridge said they were excited to have secured ASB Arena after the event outgrew Whanganui's Springvale Stadium.

"We can't wait to get up there, it will continue to snowball," he told the Bay of Plenty Times.

The quick-fire, full-court tournament features games comprising four 10-minute quarters with stoppages only allowed in the final three minutes of play.

Mr Berridge said ASB Arena would allow them to double the tournament to 70 teams by the introduction of social men's and women's divisions and under-17 and under-19 boys and girls divisions.

HoopNation was the last hit-out for the basketball season, with the men's and women's premier division open to all pro players including New Zealand's National Basketball League players, Tall Blacks, junior Tall Blacks and overseas pros.

Mr Berridge said Tauranga's world-class facility had attracted interest from two Sydney teams.

The next divisions down were men's A and women's A comprising amateurs or pro players who had not played in the current NBL season.

The premier and A divisions all had prize money.

He hoped the tournament would act as a spur for Tauranga to enter a team in the national league because the city had produced some good players.

The lure of the Bay of Plenty and its proximity to Auckland Airport meant HoopNation was closer to its goal of becoming the biggest basketball event brand in the Asia Pacific by 2020.

"We want to be there for the long term," he said.

HoopNation started five years ago with 11 teams but its player-focused philosophy had seen it grow to a major tournament under the guidance of Mr Berridge and KJ Allen.

Players did not have officiating duties, teams got sets of uniforms and there was free massage and strapping.

Mayor Stuart Crosby saw HoopNation as a good fit for ASB Arena.
The council was convinced it would boost the city's economy, with the right target audience for Tauranga.

He said the council was negotiating with Cricket New Zealand to bring more major fixtures to the city next summer. However, until Bay Oval got lights, it would not be able to bid for test matches.

He understood that a submission may be made to the council's Annual Plan asking for support to install light towers at Bay Oval.

Tauranga major events funding 2016-17 & 2017-18 (amounts per year)

• NZ Cricket 2016-18 seasons: $100,000

• AIMS Games: $60,000

• Jazz Festival: $60,000

• HoopNation: $40,000 & $30,000 ($20,000 2018-19)

• Tauranga Arts Festival: $25,000

• NZ Garden and Arts Festival: $20,000

• World Junior Squash Champs: $15,000

- Bay of Plenty Times

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