The festival of fun is here.

Tauranga will play host to the 15th Anchor AIMS Games from tomorrow, with 10,851 athletes from 326 schools in action across 22 sporting codes.

It is said to be the largest sporting event for 11-13-year-olds in the Southern Hemisphere.

Competitors are coming from around New Zealand, as well as Australia, Tonga, Samoa and the Cook Islands.


"It gives me a lot of hope for the future of society," Tauranga's mayor Greg Brownless, said yesterday.

"That sounds a bit overblown, but it's true. I think it's just delightful to have a whole lot of young people coming here. That age group is so enthusiastic."

Sailing, cross-country and gymnastics open the tournament tomorrow, as well as two sold-out opening ceremony shows at ASB Arena.

Brownless will be there, as he was last year.

"It was just like being at some sort of rock festival – the atmosphere, and they're all excited," he said.

This year's opening ceremony has gone "next-level" according to tournament director Vicki Semple.

"I'm honestly so excited to see the show and the performers and to see what it means to all the kids attending," she said.

"I'm also really looking forward to hearing Dame Val Adams speak but also Paralympian swimmer Nikita Howarth, who is just as inspirational and just as incredible.


"I usually get a bit emotional at the opening ceremony, seeing all that work by so many people finally come to fruition."

Adams and Howarth aren't the only sporting stars who will make an appearance next week.

Black Fern Selica Winiata, All White Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi, Silver Fern Kelly Jury and Olympic trampolinist Dylan Schmidt will also be out and about at different venues.

So will former New Zealand Sevens legend DJ Forbes and a host of others.

The AIMS Games is arguably the biggest week of the year for Tauranga.

Tauranga City Council is due to commission another economic impact study next year to measure how much money the event brings to the region.

In 2016, the study found the AIMS Games pumped more than $3 million into the local economy. And there are 1600 more athletes this year than there were in 2016.

Gareth Wallis, manager of city events at the council, said more than 20,000 competitors, officials and supporters are expected to descend on the city next week.

"The annual tournament is unique to Tauranga, taking over the city for a week and leaving our community buzzing. Tauranga embraces the championship wholeheartedly, and we as the local council are proud to support this home-grown event."

He said as well as the positive economic benefits that come from hosting the AIMS Games; there is also significant national and international exposure for the city.

The tournament highlights Tauranga's capability and capacity to host large-scale events, Wallis said.

He said the council, which is a strategic partner of the event, aims to make travelling around the city as easy and safe as possible.

In collaboration with the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, it is promoting the use of public transport, and the two councils are putting on a free park-and-ride service.

Free parking is available at Gordon Spratt Reserve and ASB Baypark Arena, and the bus service will run between Gordon Spratt Reserve, Papamoa Plaza, ASB Baypark Arena, Baywave, Blake Park, Mount Maunganui Hot Pools and return with buses every 30 minutes.

Bayhopper buses are also free for AIMS Games participants, team coaches and referees.

Tourism Bay of Plenty chief executive Kristin Dunne encouraged every local to make the visitors feel welcome, "to ensure that they have a wonderful stay".

"Events such as the AIMS Games drive significant shoulder and off-peak season visitation and so provide fantastic economic benefits."

Organisers have made several changes to the tournament this year. Football has moved to Pāpāmoa's Gordon Spratt Reserve and rugby sevens has moved from Waipuna Park in Welcome Bay to the tournament hub at Blake Park in Mount Maunganui.

Para-athletes will compete for the second year in a row in swimming and cross-country.

The Hits radio station host Will Johnston will be broadcasting from the AIMS Games all week, as well as hosting online shows for the tournament's website and MCing events and functions.

"Out at the Mount and in Tauranga, outside of expecting maybe a little bit more traffic than usual, there's always just a bit of a buzz with more people here and kids walking around in their AIMS Games hoody or their school hoodies and just having a bit of fun," he said.

Johnston encouraged the city's sports fans to head along to the venues and watch the young people in action.