The Bay of Plenty Cricket Oval at Blake Park, Mt Maunganui, has been rewarded for a decade of planning, with seven top class games in the coming season.
New Zealand Cricket has allocated four Northern Knights HRV Twenty20 matches against Canterbury, Wellington, Central Districts and Auckland to the Oval, along with two National One-Day competition games and a Northern Spirit T20 encounter.
The catalyst for the development of the BOP Cricket Oval, was the provincial one-day games that were held at Blake Park from 1987 to 2002. Held during the holiday season that always attracts a huge visitor influx, the ND Northern Districts (ND) home games would see crowds in their thousands flock to Blake Park.
On December 28, 1987, the first 50 over match, was staged at Blake Park, with the last on January 3, 2002. Coincidently, Northern Districts played Central Districts on both occasions.
Blake Park was then dropped by New Zealand Cricket as a one-day venue, because of its pitches in 2003 were viewed as sub-standard.
However the vision of a ground at Blake Park capable of hosting first class cricket in the region intensified.
After years of planning and protracted negotiations, the redevelopment of Blake Park started in 2005. The new Bay Oval was designed with the intention of creating a village green type atmosphere. The ground capacity would allow around 10,000 spectators the opportunity to see top class cricket in the Bay of Plenty.
The plan was to develop the Bay of Plenty Cricket Oval, along with a new cricket pavilion capable of meeting the requirements of national and international cricket
In March, 2005, the earthworks began.
While the Tauranga City Council provided the land, Bay of Plenty Cricket was responsible for developing the irrigation system and establishing the wicket block and outfield. After 10 weeks of earthmoving, the work in laying in the number one cricket block and outfield began.
The new cricket oval became a reality during the 2007 cricket season.
The initial test of the ground came in a B Grade game, when Mt Maunganui defeated Te Puke in early March 2007.
The first centuries came quickly.
On March 21, 2007, Kirby Samkin scored a remarkable 151 not out, as Tauranga Girls' College easily defeated Rotorua Girls' High School.
Four days later it was the turn of Kane Williamson, playing for the Bay of Plenty Under 19 team against Waikato Valley, to score a century, with Kane in majestic form, reaching 131 before being dismissed.
In the intervening years the Oval has become the alternate Twenty20 home base for the Northern Knights. In the past two seasons, some of the real stars of world cricket have been seen at the Oval on short term HRV Cup contracts. Last season, South African Herschelle Gibbsand Australian international David Warner turned out for the Northern Knights against the Auckland Aces at the Bay Oval.
This season's Bay Oval Provincial games start with the Northern Spirit taking on the Central Hinds in a NZ Cricket Twenty20 game on December 2 - followed by the Northern Knights hosting the Canterbury Wizards on December 4, before backing up three days later against the Auckland Aces.
The HRV Cup Twenty20 visit to the Bay Oval, is a short sharp stay of four games in nine days.
On the last day of 2011 the home side face Canterbury, before back to back match-ups with the Wellington Firebirds and Central Districts Stags on January 4 and 5, 2012.
The final game sees Auckland return to the Oval on January 8.
Bay of Plenty Cricket Oval Games 2011/12 NZ
Cricket Women's Twenty20
December 2 Northern Spirit v Central Hinds
National One-Day Competition
December 4 Northern Knights v Canterbury Wizards
December 7 Northern Knights v Auckland Aces
HRV Twenty20 Competition
December 31 Northern Knights v Canterbury Wizards
January 4 Northern Knights v Wellington Firebirds
January 5 Northern Knights v Central Districts Stags
January 8 Northern Knights v Auckland Aces