Mayor Stuart Crosby officially started the countdown yesterday to the much awaited three-test series between the Black Sticks men and Japan to be held at the impressive Tauranga Hockey Centre at Blake Park from March 12-15.
Mayor Crosby was proud to look across the picture-perfect playing turfs knowing how much community involvement helped fund the facilities.
"The original turfs go back to late 80s and when they required replacement, it was a collaborative effort by TECT particularly, Tauranga City Council, Western Bay Council and other charities," he said. "That is how we tend to do things in Tauranga, to work collaboratively both in developing a centre of excellence for hockey, as well as resourcing it.
"This particular facility, as with the cricket and ASB Arena and hopefully other facilities, will add to our events portfolio, so we are linking sports with events. Council has just increased its resource with events because, to be honest, it has been pretty poor and has not changed in a decade. So we are upping our game in events considerably in a very short period of time and, because we have upped our game, now the private sector is coming on board also to support events at a higher level.
"The critical thing is Tauranga Hockey has always been a very professionally run sporting group and council has always had confidence in their ability to deliver."
Clyde du Toit, general manager Tauranga Hockey Association, says Hockey New Zealand is very happy with the venue and excited to come down to Tauranga.
"Ticket sales have been open for a while and are going well. What I think people will do is with two weeks to go they will start buying more tickets. We really want the community to come out and support the Black Sticks, especially with Andy [Heywood] playing at home. Not often do you get to see your home-grown Black Sticks playing here."
An online auction to find flag bearers at the internationals will act as a key fundraiser for Tauranga Hockey Association for the future development of hockey in the community.