The Napier City Council is lauding "a real team effort" in the securing of five international cricket matches for Hawke's Bay cricket headquarters McLean Park over the next two summers
The games were confirmed in an announcement from New Zealand Cricket yesterday, with three games in two months at the start of next year, between the Black Caps and Bangladesh, Australia and South Africa, and two the following summer on dates to be set, against Pakistan and England.
All are limited-overs one-day internationals or Twenty20 matches.
Napier Mayor Bill Dalton said "It's just been a great negotiation, fantastic for the city, fantastic for Hawke's Bay."
"[NZ Cricket] like the direction the park's going and hence the reason why we've got some pretty good games coming up next summer, some very big games," he said.
"It's a true partnership between Napier City Council and New Zealand Cricket ... and I think it bodes extremely well for cricket in Hawke's Bay, it actually is just an indication of what a council like Napier can do."
For Napier to secure the matches, council had to meet NZ Cricket's requirements " negotiations spearheaded by events manager Kevin Murphy and his team.
The fruits of their labour will be additions to the Napier stadium of upgraded lighting, new practice facilities, and drop-in cricket wickets - the required infrastructure to host international games.
Mr Murphy said council and NZ Cricket had worked together to ensure the dates did not clash with other summer events, such as Art Deco, and national biennial kapa haka festival Te Matatini, being held next February in Hastings.
The games would provide Hawke's Bay with more than just two summers of sporting entertainment " such events were part of council's attempts to aid economic development, and with the newly created events manager role, Mr Dalton said council was now "gearing up".
While there was an economic benefit from bringing such events to the bay, chief executive Wayne Jack said there was also a strong social factor.
"The reason why you have events is that it brings communities together," he said, "There's that feel good factor that comes from having teams come here, and particularly the likes of the Black Caps."
There was also the opportunity to take players out into the community and meet the Hawke's Bay children who idolised them.
"That encourages them to get out, and become active, and change their lifestyle to emulate them," he said.
Through such events the region was also able to "promote itself", and there was an immense value of marketing, Mr Murphy said.
Successful sporting events raised the regions profile, Mr Dalton said, which meant other sport organisations knew "Napier could host them, and Hawke's Bay could support them".
"This is some of what's happened with NZ cricket, they're saying 'you guys can do this, [and]make these things happen'."
McLean Park was an attractive venue as one of the only multi-use stadiums.
As it was managed by council rather than a council controlled organisation or trust, Mr Jack said also they had a lot of flexibility in how they could position it to receive events.
While council's motivation to secure first class cricket matches had been made clear to NZC, it was qualified with the need to have NZ Cricket's commitment to McLean Park confirmed by the allocation of matches, before the intended programme of works was completed.
The upgrades to be approved by council included the construction of a drop-in wicket, which would be prepared in a different area in the stadium, and moved to its site for games.
To "meet and exceed" international cricket council standards, there would be an upgrade of sports field lighting, and training facilities would be established within McLean Park.
The estimated cost would be $600,000 spread over the 2016 and 2017 financial years, to be funded by existing sports ground development funds, and at this stage construction would begin in October.
Wednesday's meeting, where approval may be given, will be the next step in a process which began following the Cricket World Cup, and the fruition of changes at council.
Putting money toward events had been a "bold move" by council, Mr Jack said, which had never been done before.
As a result of the direction taken during the Cricket World Cup council had begun discussions with NZC, and had been "very proactive" in their attempts to secure more games for Napier.
This aligned with what Mr Dalton said was a complete change of emphasis in council during this three year term.
"Council will always recognise the value to concentrate on their core business footpaths and storm water, and all those sorts of things but [council] never had an events manager, they never had a communications department, they never had the facilities and the staffing to actually get out there and sell the city."
Securing the coming first class cricket games was an example of the changes made during the past term coming to fruition.
"Napier is so lucky it has a strong and unified council. We all have our own interests and causes but at the end of the day we are all prepared to pull on the same end of the rope," he said.
"We all acknowledge that working as a team is far more effective and serves the community far better than following private agendas. The progress Napier is making reflects that."
More progress is on the cards - the upcoming games were part of a two-year allocation and with an increase in NZC's international programme, Mr Murphy thought NZC would be allocating for three years next.
"They're being very proactive in speaking with councils around the allocation of games," he said, "so we just need to do well over the next two years."
Now council had secured the matches, Mr Jack said a key part of their success would be the audience.
"Obviously NZ cricket would like to see capacity crowds there all the time, so the challenge now is for the Hawke's Bay people to get behind these events which are coming here and support it."
Mr Dalton said the council was doing its bit, and it was now up to the public to get behind the games.
"If we don't get the support further down the track we'll start falling off [NZC's] radar, so we need the public to get out and support us."
Progress did not end with cricket - Mr Murphy would be continuing to build new relationships between groups like NZC and council, and Mr Dalton said council was talking with other sporting codes, and events the park could host.
"The upgrades to the park, to the lighting, and by taking that wicket block out means that we can use the park a lot more and that's what we're aiming to do," he said.
"It's a fantastic facility, council has spent many millions of dollars on it over the years and we need to utilise it more. It certainly won't just be cricket and rugby, although they will remain the major sports, no question about that."
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