Editorial: Bid to woo Cup cricket well worth it

By Dylan Thorne

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I hope Tauranga throws its support behind the Bay of Plenty Cricket Trust's bid to get a World Cup cricket match in the city.

This week we reported that the trust wants to upgrade Blake Park to international standard in time for the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup, which will be held in Australia and New Zealand.

Expressions of interest have been called for from regional groups wanting to host matches and the trust believes Tauranga has a shot at securing a match.

If it succeeds it would help put Tauranga, which has long been off the beaten track for promoters and organisers, on the national events map.

As this paper has pointed out in the past, Tauranga's population base - it is the fifth-largest city in the country - suggests it should not be starved of international acts and sporting events.

The issue came to a head last year when Tauranga missed out on hosting any of the Rugby World Cup matches.

I was living in Whangarei during last year's Rugby World Cup. The city was lucky enough to host several games.

The reality was that the event - as enjoyable as it was - was about much more than sport. It brought a sense of excitement to the city that is hard to put into words.

It resulted in sell-outs at the stadium and the city came to a standstill on game day as thousands of locals made their way to the stadium for those games.

Last year's Rugby World Cup was a one-off, but that's not to say hosting a World Cup cricket match could not have similar spin-offs - a boost in visitor numbers and spending - for this city.

To get those events the city needs to throw its support behind organisations such as the cricket trust and that - inevitably - involves spending money.

The Bay of Plenty Cricket Trust is seeking $2.6million to upgrade Blake Park. A $2million project to build a pavilion was "virtually fully funded" but the cost of installing international-standard lighting, a media centre and a high-quality scoreboard was estimated to be about $2.6million.

Beyond the excitement of the world cup, the upgrades could have other spin-offs. The trust anticipating it could get backing from New Zealand Cricket to develop a centre of excellence. It could also be used for outdoor concerts in the summer, and other events.

Last month's successful international netball double-header at TECT Arena proved there is an appetite for international matches in the city and the cricket trust is trying to capitalise on that.

Trust spokesman Neil Craig says TECT and the Tauranga City Council have already supported the development of the pavilion at Blake Park, but it is unlikely that either would be able to also help with the lighting project.

Unless corporates step up, he says, the project, which needs to be completed by Christmas, could fall over. Let's hope the trust gets the support it needs to help put Tauranga back on the beaten track for major events.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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