Tauranga's premier sporting tournament received yet another accolade last night, with the NZCT Aims Games recognised for event excellence at the annual Sport New Zealand Sport and Recreation Awards in Auckland.
Over the last 11 years, the NZCT Aims Games has grown to be New Zealand's largest junior sporting festival - expanding from four sporting codes and 750 participants in 2004 to 17 sporting codes and 7,500 competitors last year.
The Sport New Zealand judging notes concluded that the 2014 edition of the tournament "was an outstanding success, exhibiting a high level of professionalism in event management achieved on a limited budget, and representing an event intricately linked with the community".
Tournament director Vicki Semple said the support of the New Zealand Community Trust and TECT had been key factors in the growth of the event, while the NZCT Aims Games trust had shown amazing vision to realise the dream of creating memories for generations of young athletes.
"We're delighted with this award and we're so proud that we've managed to impact the lives of thousands of aspiring athletes over the years by creating an iconic event people are passionate about," Ms Semple said.
"We're also proud of the long-lasting partnerships we've formed - with businesses, supporters and our amazing code coordinators - which will continue to grow the event in years to come."
It proved to be a big night for Sport Bay of Plenty, with the regional sporting body also collecting the Communications Excellence award.
Judges noted a variety of channels had been utilised across traditional and digital media, in recognition of the diverse audiences in the Bay, but with consistent messaging and branding. "Significant emphasis was also placed on including all staff as the 'voice' of the organisation, and they have now become regular contributors to the weekly digital and regional print forums," the note said.
Sport Bay of Plenty chief executive Aims Games Trust board member Heidi Lichtwark was present at the awards ceremony last night and commented on the strength of the sport and recreation community, as well as the diversity amongst the finalists.
"Sport Bay of Plenty is delighted to be recognized amongst our peers," Lichtwark said. "Utilising the expertise of all our staff across our multi-channel approach has proven effective, not only for the community but also to highlight the knowledge and experience we have in our organization."
Meanwhile, the NZCT Aims Games - due to be held from September 6-11 - will have yachting joining the list of sporting codes on offer with another record-breaking attendance likely.
Last year, with dairy giant Fonterra on board as a key sponsor, a total of 228 schools from around the country took part at 15 different venues across the Western Bay of Plenty, helping showcase the region, generating 37,500 visitor nights and contributing $1.52 million to the region's economy.
"This event is now a significant contributor to the economic prosperity of our city and that's reflected in the support Tauranga City Council gives it each year," Pip Loader, manager for strategic events, said.
"It's shaken up Tauranga's reputation as a summer-only city and shows the region can host major events all year round."
The Sport and Recreation Awards ceremony showcased some of the dedicated individuals, teams, clubs and organisations around the country that embody the true spirit of sport and recreation.