The Western Bay's multimillion-dollar sport and exhibition centre was officially opened late yesterday - the first new major sporting facility to open in the city for more than 40 years.
Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby opened the $41 million TECT Arena at Baypark, of which $25 million was funded by Tauranga ratepayers, $7 million by sub-regional development contributions, $8 million by TECT and the balance by the Lion Foundation and Lottery Grants Board.
Mr Crosby said the Queen Elizabeth Youth Centre was the last sporting facility to open in Tauranga, in the mid-1960s.
"What the TECT Arena's managed to do is open up a lot of opportunity that the city has missed out on for, I'd suggest, 20 years.
"First and foremost this was built for our local sporting and recreational community. It's not a youth facility, it's for everybody, of all ages," he said.
Mr Crosby said that in the past a lack of venues had meant putting sport aside to run other events, while the TECT Arena - which includes nine courts across two auditoriums, four meeting rooms and a large foyer and cafe - allowed sport and other events to run at the same time.
"It was very important that the council got control of the whole site [at Baypark], both the speedway and catering. That way we can really integrate all the activities and keep everybody happy," Mr Crosby said.
Former New Zealand wheelchair basketballer and Tauranga City councillor Tony Christiansen said the new arena was a credit to those who had built it and would ensure Tauranga would not be left off the international concert circuit any longer. "We'll have a place where big artists will come. Tauranga should be really proud of it. To be here to see it finished the way it is, is just spectacular," he said.
Mr Christiansen described the arena as one of the lynchpins to get the city going, saying a hotel and convention centre, catering for up to 300 guests, should be next on the council's wish list.
"That is one of the things that we're working on as a council, bringing a national hotel chain into the city.
"That's where the money is and that's where the economic value is," he said.
Tauranga MP Simon Bridges described the TECT Arena as a brilliant facility for the future of Tauranga.
"For many decades to come people are going to be able to enjoy great sport, culture and entertainment there.
"I'm sure there will also be a substantial economic spin-off to our region from this, with events like the Meatloaf concert being able to be held here from now on, motels, hotels and restaurants will all see increased patronage."
Netball Bay of Plenty chief executive Sheryl Dawson fought back a tear as she acknowledged a dream she had been been pursuing since the early 1990s had come to fruition.
"For me, it's quite an emotional moment. When you have a dream come true, it's a special moment," she said.
Having lost count of the times she had made presentations to Tauranga City Council, Mrs Dawson said she was among a group of Bay people who had pushed hard for a new indoor sporting facility.
"It's really progressed from there, every opportunity we've been busy championing this particular venue," she said.
The first sporting event, the New Zealand National Wrestling Championships begin at TECT Arena today, with the NZCT Aims Games due to be officially opened there on Sunday evening.
A public open day will be held at TECT Arena on September 3 from 12-3pm.
Community sports will be on display during day, including volleyball, football, indoor netball, basketball, turbo touch, indoor bowls, table tennis and Zumba classes.
TECT Arena at Baypark facts
- More than 13,000sq m of useable space
- 9 courts
- Expected usage: 5000 to 7000 people a week
- Cost - $41 million
- 37 television screens around the building broadcasting information on games