Hockey: 'Phenomenal' new centre for hockey

By Ben Guild

Hundreds of people - including three prominent Tauranga Black Sticks - were on hand to celebrate the official opening of the Tauranga Hockey Centre on Saturday.

The purpose-built facility, boasting a pair of international quality water turfs and an impressive new clubhouse, did not disappoint the large crowd that braved overcast skies.

Tauranga Hockey general manager Clyde du Toit was clearly excited about the turnout and the prospect of having an international quality venue as a hub for Western Bay of Plenty hockey.

"It's been fantastic - we started at 10am this morning and to see all the juniors playing was wonderful. It's great to see all the people checking out the facilities," said du Toit.

"Our pavilion is nicely situated and we have a new café here as well, so we are happy. It's really turned out to be a phenomenal place.

"We're hoping that we will get more and more international matches and that the Black Sticks could use this as a training venue leading up to the World Cup in Holland next year.

That would be really exciting and bring both our national teams down here."

He paid tribute to a host of people who made the completion of the ambitious project a reality.

"Without the support of the community and the funders we wouldn't have been able to make this happen. Too many people to mention have put in hours and hours of volunteer time."

He believes the centre will be crucial in attracting players to the sport - especially those from primary and intermediate schools that do not offer hockey as an option.

That should lead to an increase in quality play and playing numbers, necessitating a third turf planned for 2019 on the neighbouring site that currently hosts the Mount Maunganui cricket team.

Tauranga's Black Sticks women's star Gemma Flynn spoke on behalf of fellow homegrown internationals Sam Charlton and Rose Keddell, who were also in attendance.

"Like Rosie and Sam, I'm really proud of Tauranga," said Flynn.

"I started off at Pemberton Park when I was five years old, so to see this project go ahead with everyone's support is truly inspirational.

"There's been a lot of memories on the turf from when I used to play, when I was badly behaved sometimes, but we're past that now.

"I'm really proud and privileged to be able to speak here today and enjoy it with everyone.

"It's great for us because we are really excited about coming back here in two weeks and playing."

The final round and playoffs of the women's quad series, to be contested by New Zealand, Argentina, USA and Korea, will be held at the newly opened venue.

Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby cut the ribbon at the opening and paid tribute to all of those involved, while describing the Tauranga Hockey Club as a strong association with a proud history.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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