New Zealand's newest professional sports team has found its long-term home.
The Auckland Tuatara have inked a nine-year deal with Auckland Stadiums to call North Harbour's QBE Stadium home for their Australian Baseball League campaigns.
The deal commences in November 2019, in time for the Tuatara's second season, and runs through to the end of February 2028.
To facilitate the needs of the baseball franchise, Auckland Stadiums announced it will reconfigure the open west stand to accommodate a full-sized baseball diamond, with a baseball overlay being installed prior to each summer season. The Tuatara will bring 15 games to the stadium each season, including a number of Saturday double-headers. The alterations will cost $2million, which is being paid for by Regional Facilities Auckland.
Baseball New Zealand chief executive and Tuatara general manager Ryan Flynn said the agreement was the most significant milestone in the history of the sport in New Zealand.
"Could there be a bigger moment for the sport, for the Tuatara and Baseball New Zealand, to have a hub in the country that it's never had; to have a facility that arguably will be the number one facility overall in this part of the world when it's all said and done?
"We need that edge and those advantages from a development and commercial side because we've had so little in terms of infrastructure compare to the Australians and in Asia."
This summer, the side will play their inaugural season in the ABL based out of McLeod Park in Te Atatu, with three home series' in a row scheduled from November 23 through to December 9.
Baseball New Zealand and the Auckland Tuatara already have their administration base at QBE Stadium and were expected to be cornerstone users of the QBE Stadium High Performance Centre, due to open within the next 18 months.
Flynn said discussions had been underway between Baseball New Zealand and Regional Facilities Auckland about basing the sport at QBE Stadium, which ramped up recently as the idea of the New Zealand-based ABL franchise becoming a realistic goal.
A lot of negotiating went on over the length of the deal, Flynn said, but he was happy with what the parties had achieved.
"They've had to look at it in terms of filling the stadium for taxpayers and dollars and cents so there was a lot of back and forth on numbers - what made sense for them and what we could afford as still a relatively smaller organisation compared to Rugby New Zealand or New Zealand Cricket.
"We had to be smart and wise financially on our side as well. Baseball New Zealand is a big stakeholder in the Tuatara and the NSO's board directors are on the hook for everything we do, so they had to be wise in how we handled the negotiations over the past year or two."
Acting director at Auckland Stadiums James Parkinson said the partnership with the Tuatara was a great example of "leveraging the significant assets at QBE Stadium to allow us to meet the sporting demands of a growing and diversifying Auckland population, and continuing our support of sport in New Zealand in general."
"Attending an Auckland Tuatara event will be unlike any other sporting event in New Zealand with the franchise set to bring the best of America's minor league game day experience to QBE Stadium.
"We believe this will bring a new demographic to QBE Stadium, with baseball becoming an increasingly popular sport in NZ, both in terms of television viewership and grass roots participation."
Tickets and memberships for the Tuatara's inaugural season are on sale now.