COMMENT:

A group of passionate volunteers, a jaw-dropping track design and funding to get it started.

The perfect ingredients for Te Papa o Te Kauri (The Kauri Park), BMX Rotorua's magnificent, world-class new HQ and arena out at Waipa which will officially open on Saturday, December 7 right next to the main trailhead of our world-famous mountain bike park.

The wheels were put in motion five years ago, the culmination of a huge effort from within the Rotorua BMX community, matched by massive sponsorship and funding support to raise $1.6 million.

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"We couldn't have produced a track of this standard without this investment," project co-ordinator and former club president Melanie Short says.

"In 2014 we received grants of $500,000 each from Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust and the New Zealand Community Trust … it felt like the stars had aligned and building the very best track possible became a reality."

Funding from the Lotteries Commission, One Foundation, Grassroots Trust and the Lion Foundation gave the project another big push.

"BMX is historically strong in Rotorua with world-ranked riders like Sarah Walker, Lachie Stevens-McNab, Megan Williams and Dion Newth to name a few," BMX Rotorua president Aimee McGregor says.

"What's most exciting for us is the potential for a track of this calibre to engage more young people in our fast-growing sport."

Olympic silver medallist Sarah Walker is excited about the new venue.

World champion and New Zealand Olympian BMX rider Sarah Walker. Photo / File
World champion and New Zealand Olympian BMX rider Sarah Walker. Photo / File

"It's an ideal location and really well thought out," she says.

"I was involved in the design process and it's going to be cool to ride."

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Red Stag Timber, Spark Business Bay of Plenty and design, engineering and planning company WSP were pivotal in the process of constructing the track, which boasts two starting ramps to cater for beginners through to elite athletes.

Rotorua Lakes Council leased the site to the club for a peppercorn rent and supported the project with access to the site.

Campbell Contracting was responsible for the civic work and the 8-metre ramp was built by Burton Construction.

Craig Pattle from Velo Solutions New Zealand oversaw the track shaping.

He's a Rotorua local, a former BMXer and international downhill mountain biker.

Tuhoto-Ariki Pene was on the build crew. He's a former BMX New Zealand number one and this year made his mark on the mountain bike scene with a World Cup win and a third place at the World Championships in Canada in Junior Men's Downhill.

His mana whenua is Tuhourangi, who gifted the name Te Papa o Te Kauri.

"The official opening and inaugural meeting will be a celebration of what can be achieved when a dedicated family of volunteers hold tight to their vision and work in well together," says Melanie.

"There'll be elite racing practice, entertainment, spot prizes, food trucks and a barbecue."

On Sunday, December 8 the club will host a category 1 race for Elite grade riders.

More than 25 are confirmed, including Kiwis Sarah Walker, Rebecca Petch and Michael Bias along with Caroline Buchanan and Kai Sakakibara from Australia and riders from China, South Africa and The Netherlands.

"We'll start to see more major events on the track including the BMX New Zealand National Championships in February 2020," says Aimee.

"This can only be good for the future of the sport in Rotorua and New Zealand."

See the BMX Rotorua page on Facebook for the latest news.