Anchor AIMS Games tournament director Vicki Semple. Photo / George Novak A_280819gn06bop.JPG
AIMS Games Trust chairman and Otumoetai Intermediate principal Henk Popping. Photo / George Novak A_100919gn09bop.JPG
By Zoe Hunter
Tauranga's premier intermediate-aged sports competition that pumps millions of dollars into the region's economy already has "huge interest" for its 2021 event.
The Anchor Aims Games was cancelled this year due to Covid-19 but organisers say schools are already locking in the date for next year's event which is planned to be "even more memorable".
School principals and leaders in the business, hospitality and accommodation sectors were looking forward to the event returning from September 4 to 10 next year and say the AIMS Games will play an important part in the region's recovery post lockdown.
The 2019 event injected a record $6.5 million into the region and drew more than 11,500 athletes from around New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, attracting more than 20,000 visitors to Tauranga.
Tournament director Vicki Semple said cancelling this year's event was devastating for so many people but organisers took some comfort in knowing they had made the right call.
"Given the resurgence of Covid-19 in August and September, it would've made the 2020 tournament impossible to run."
But Semple said cancelling the competition had given them a head start on next year and "we're planning to make the 2021 edition even more memorable".
"We've already had a huge amount of interest from new schools wanting to take part, while schools, officials and supporters that normally come are already locking in the dates for next year."
AIMS Games Trust chairman and Otumoetai Intermediate principal Henk Popping said the whole city will be looking forward to the event's return from an economic point of view.
"For schools, it will be great to get going for next year as a lot of people have looked forward to it for many years."
Popping said the Trust was working with key stakeholders including Sport New Zealand, ACC and the Tauranga City Council to bring the 2021 event to fruition.
"It is about bringing a bit of normality back to New Zealand sport," he said. "It has been a difficult year and schools have tried as much as they can to offer sports to the students but we are all looking forward to bringing it back in a much wider scale."
Tauranga Intermediate School principal Cameron Mitchell said his school was looking forward to the event's 2021 return.
"Obviously, like everybody, we were disappointed it was cancelled this year but we are very much looking forward to it returning next year."
Mitchell said the intermediate held its own AIMS Games-inspired inter-house school sporting competition to "make up for that loss of excitement" and planned to enter again next year.
"It's about giving as many of our children the opportunity to give it a go."
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley said the AIMS Games were the most important event for the local economy and the accommodation, tourism and retail sectors will benefit from the event re-launch in 2021.
"It has thousands of people staying for a week during the quieter spring period. AIMS Games will be something that many businesses look forward to at the end of what could be a difficult next winter for many."
Priority One chief executive Nigel Tutt said he was pleased to see that AIMS Games were planned for next year.
"It creates huge spin-offs for our retail, hospitality and accommodation businesses and also is a great way to showcase how great the city of Tauranga is."
Hospitality New Zealand Bay of Plenty regional manager, Alan Sciascia, said the loss of the 2020 event impacted the region as it brought thousands of people to the Bay for upwards of a week.
"All those people need to be accommodated and fed while here which creates jobs for the region.
"Hospitality is a vital part of the region's economy and it is important that we retain the AIMS Games for future years to help the hospitality sector recover from a difficult 2020."
Tourism Bay of Plenty head of destination marketing Kath Low said the Aims Games was "hugely important" to the region's community and tourism industry.
"The timing of the games is hugely beneficial to Tauranga and the wider region, as September would otherwise be a shoulder-season month for tourism.
"The event has significant flow-on effects to accommodation, hospitality, retail and tourism activities. Tauranga is a proud host to the Anchor AIMS Games and we're excited for September 2021."