Peter is a sports writer at the Bay of Plenty Times

Opinion: Lack of a stadium is a city-wide embarrassment

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BENEFITS: The game between Bay of Plenty and Taranaki at Tauranga Domain on Saturday was a huge boost to the CBD business community. Photograph by Andrew Warner.
BENEFITS: The game between Bay of Plenty and Taranaki at Tauranga Domain on Saturday was a huge boost to the CBD business community. Photograph by Andrew Warner.

The antiquated Tauranga Domain got a serious makeover for Saturday's big rugby clash between Bay of Plenty and Taranaki in the Mitre 10 Cup.

The addition of a temporary stand along the Cameron Road side of the stadium, a corporate marquee area at the Mount Maunganui end, Little Big Market food vendors and a large kids play area behind the goalposts at the bowling club side all helped cover up the ageing stadium's inadequacies.

The opening wide span from the SKY TV cameras beamed live pictures to millions of viewers around New Zealand of cranes and containers rather than our beautiful harbour and iconic Mauao.

Sitting in the back of the grandstand looking at this sad view it occurred to me that the cranes and containers are the genesis of a future stadium Tauranga so desperately needs.

Instead of wasting another three years with Tauranga City councillors refusing to commit to any stadium plans whatsoever, the answer could lie with Quayside Holdings Limited, the investment arm of the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and the majority holder of the Port of Tauranga Limited.

Port of Tauranga is New Zealand's largest and most profitable operation, in excess of Auckland, Wellington, Whangarei and New Plymouth.

In other areas outdoor winter stadiums have been upgraded to the level we desperately need with regional council funding.

New Plymouth and Whangarei are hardly Tauranga's equal in terms of population, growth or potential. Yet both smaller towns have stadiums to be proud of.

Taranaki rugby players on Saturday wore jerseys with Port Taranaki proudly emblazoned across their chests, which is sponsorship that enables Taranaki to contest the top echelons of the Mitre 10 Cup.

At the 2013 Census, New Plymouth's population was 68,901 compared with 116,190 in Tauranga. We all know how much Tauranga has grown since then.

Bay of Plenty has the fourth highest number of registered rugby players in New Zealand and is likely to move past Wellington into third next year.

The public embarrassment caused by the lack of a decent, winter-code stadium in Tauranga grows with the arrival of every new resident to the Western Bay, who must wonder why such an integral part of our city has been ignored for so long.

The Phoenix, All Whites, Warriors, Kiwis, Chiefs, the national sevens and top music acts - and so much more - could all play here in a decent stadium.

North Harbour Stadium in Albany is busy most days of the week with functions and indoor events. It has a robust cash flow these days and is anything but a white elephant.

Every major sporting event held there boosts the nearby shopping and restaurant area, just like Saturday's game did for The Strand hospitality area.

I am sick of having to defend this city I grew up in that is so far behind the rest of the country in having a decent outdoor winter stadium.

Surely it is time to put this right.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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