Tauranga has once again missed out on the Chiefs Super Rugby team playing here.

The Hamilton-based franchise with a big following this side of the Kaimai Range, has decided to play one of its pre-season matches in Rotorua, after admitting the facilities available in Tauranga were not up to scratch.

Well we all know that. For years nothing has been done to fill the obvious need for an outdoor winter code stadium we can all be proud of.

ASB Baypark Stadium is not that. It was designed for speedway and does a good job facilitating that sport.


Today the diggers move in to turn the grass infield into a maze of water canals for the magnificent jet sprint event to be held there in a fortnight. That's its purpose.

The Chiefs will never play there again - trust me on that - and chief executive Andrew Flexman has indicated Tauranga Domain is where they want to play.

Today Bay of Plenty Rugby's administration staff move from Baypark to the new High Performance Centre at Blake Park. No decision has been made as to what venues will host the Steamers in the 2016 Mitre 10 Cup (yep, new sponsors).

The dwindling crowd numbers to support the team at Baypark have as much to do with spectator dissatisfaction with the venue as the Steamers on-field form.

But a union the size of Bay of Plenty should be proud of where it plays its home games.

In December, official NZ Rugby figures revealed Bay of Plenty has passed Waikato as the fourth biggest rugby union in New Zealand in terms of player numbers. There are more than 10,000 registered players in the Bay, more than Waikato and just 500 players behind third-placed Wellington.

Tauranga city has grown exponentially to the stage where it has the fifth largest population and judging by the surging numbers of building consents and out-of-towners buying real estate here, it may overtake Hamilton in the near future.

The Bay Oval is an international quality cricket venue, the nearby hockey turfs equally so but like it or not rugby is the sport most people are into. The upgrade of Tauranga Domain is vital to not only attracting teams and events but revitalising the CBD, which desperately needs it.

If done right it could be more cost effective than realised. An example is North Harbour's QBE Stadium. It is busy most days of every week with conferences, trade shows, exhibitions, private group meetings and weddings. It provides valuable employment with catering and general staff, and generates substantial revenue to off-set costs.

A viable stadium is made up of many facets, of which match playing days are just one factor. But the pictures beamed around New Zealand and the world from live sport are the best free advertising a city can have.

The feedback internationally from the recent cricket internationals at Bay Oval is case in point.

It is time to move the Domain stadium upgrade project to the next level.