A games village in the CBD and an opening ceremony at Cooks Gardens is part of a major overhaul of Masters Games announced yesterday.

The annual event, which alternates between Dunedin and Whanganui, returns next February and the Whanganui Events Trust, which owns and runs the games, has made some changes to refresh the event.

Chief executive Kathy Cunningham said the number of participants had dropped in recent years and the format was becoming tired.

The Games Village will move from Springvale Park to the War Memorial Centre (including the forecourt) with an opening ceremony and finals to be held at Cooks Gardens. Springvale Park will still host events.


"It will feel like a new event but with the history and tradition and participation of so many people over the last 28 years," Ms Cunningham said.

Cooks Gardens was underutilised and Masters Games provided an opportunity for it to be used and showcased to residents and visitors, Ms Cunningham said.

Having the village in town would provide spin-offs for business and make the event more visible. Ms Cunningham said the trust's goal was to get 5000 participants next year. And with the World Masters Games being held in Auckland two months later, Ms Cunningham hoped athletes would use the national event as preparation.

Other changes include fewer sports but the addition of other activities for those not officially competing. It's not been decided which sports will be dropped.

The trust has also decided to do away with the idea of a theme for the games, which will instead have a theme song chosen with the help of the public. The event is estimated to bring $2 million to Whanganui and will be held from February 3 to 12; registrations open on July 14.