Nothing seems to rark up the good citizens of Tauranga more than the need for a winter sports and events stadium.
Despite the city’s population growing at a rate quicker than the grass verges in early-December, the lack of support for a stadium we can all be proud of is deafening.
For someone like me who grew up in this beautiful city, with St Mary’s School and Tauranga Boys’ College to thank for my education, it annoys me the dilapidated old Tauranga Domain is still used for hosting the Bay of Plenty Steamers and major summer music festivals.
While other much smaller towns and cities in New Zealand have stadia to be proud of, and use sporting facilities to showcase their treasured part of the country to the world, we have something that was built in the 1950s.
The Bay Oval Trust showed what can be done with the right attitude and a can-do way of thinking to get the superb Bay Oval cricket stadium established. It now ranks as one of the very best cricket venues in New Zealand and I understand will soon be allocated test matches by NZ Cricket.
Now I know when the domain is spruced up with temporary stands and colourful marquees, it looks great on television. It was the perfect venue for last month’s TECT National Sevens and people love going there because it is a short walk to downtown restaurants and bars.
But the lack of spectator capacity makes it severely limiting.
But is second best really what the fastest growing city in NZ deserves? A new facility needs to be multi-purpose, with conference and wedding facilities, and be available for rugby, league, football, rock concerts, plus indoor and outdoor exhibitions.
The good news is there are opportunities for alternative funding sources other than the over-stretched Tauranga City Council ratepayers.
A combination of Bay of Plenty Regional Council money and private investors would be the ideal solution. Meetings are due to take place between key stakeholders, which is a positive step.
That leaves the final conundrum – what is the best location to put a stadium?
During the next 12 months a feasibility study is expected to be done to evaluate options. Watch this space for updates.