Calls for a new stadium in Tauranga could become a whole lot louder come August if supporters get behind the Bay of Plenty Steamers’ return to Tauranga Domain.
That’s the opinion of Bay of Plenty Rugby chief executive Mike Rogers, who says moving the clash with Waikato is in response to feedback from supporters that ASB Baypark doesn’t provide the atmosphere and intimacy they expect from an “edge-of-your-seat” experience.
Bay of Plenty Rugby Union chief executive Mike Rogers believes the ITM Cup clash at Tauranga Domain will be great for the city. Photo: Bruce Barnard.
The ITM Cup fixture will mark the first provincial rugby match at the city’s Domain in seven years, and it is hoped an estimated crowd of 5,000-6,000 for the televised clash will create a “cauldron effect” thanks to temporary seating.
But it also reignites the great debate over whether Tauranga needs a new stadium.
Last year the Chiefs turned their back on playing its annual fixture at ASB Baypark, prompting widespread discussion about a new purpose-built facility for the city.
At the time, Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby advocated for a new stadium to be built at the city’s Wharepai Domain, with a 15,000-18,000 seat capacity.
Rogers says the rugby union is certainly interested in a stadium that would cater for all sports in Tauranga. Though it is all hypothetical at the moment, Tauranga Domain is an early frontrunner.
“The future shouldn’t look, in my view, a 35,000 seat stadium,” says Rogers. “It could be a 10,000-15,000 seat boutique stadium that offers the right facilities at the right price.
“If you create the right venue and it’s located in the right place in terms of supporting other infrastructure and other businesses - that’s what we are trying to achieve from the game.”
He also isn’t ruling out an end to ASB Baypark, but goes as far to say that if people think there is a need for change, then they will get behind August’s fixture.
“The best way they can show their support for a new stadium is to get along to this game,” he adds, “and really show they want to have a venue that works for them and provides opportunities for the community.”
Long-time stadium advocate Terry Leeming – known as Hori BOP – applauds the switch back to the domain.
Leeming has been petitioning the council to allocate the No2 or No3 fields at the Domain for a stadium for 13 years. He believes Baypark is not designed for rugby, though during the height of the Ranfurly Shield it was suitable.
“ASB Baypark has proved it’s not fit for rugby and the Bay of Plenty rugby union and council have listened to the community,” he says.
“The community have overwhelmingly rejected it as a rugby stadium.”
He echoes Rogers’ comments of the public needing to fill the domain in order to make the dream a reality.
“We just need to get away from thinking that we need a 40,000 to 50,000 seat stadium,” adds Leeming.
“Hopefully this is the seed that plants the start of the field of dreams.”