Onwards and upwards for Bay Oval

Photo: File.

The Bay Oval’s status as one of the top venues in the country for New Zealand’s national summer sport isn't good enough for the man in charge, Kelvin Jones.

The ground’s packed summer of high-level cricket moves up a gear today, with the first of New Zealand A’s one day international clashes with India A.

And despite the venue already proving itself a hit with fans from near and far, it’s still very much in the development process, says Kelvin, the General Manager of the Bay Oval Trust.

“We need to cement ourselves as the number one cricket ground in the country,” he says. “Arguably, in many ways we already are, but in the eyes of the powers that be, we’re probably more top three or four.

“We want to make sure of it by being better, and look at some of the areas that we’re perhaps lacking in.

“It’s still a pretty raw experience coming to the Oval, if I can put it that way. You walk across a gravel entry, go through some temporary fencing and walk across a gravel road.

“We can’t rest on our laurels is the message for us. We have to keep growing, and getting better.”

The stadium that fans see at the New Zealand A, Burger King Super Smash, Blackcaps and White Ferns matches over summer will continue to evolve, says Kelvin, with the Trust and Tauranga City Council progressively adding those finishing touches in the short term.

An enlarged groundsman’s shed is also due in the next few months, and a further extension of the embankment on the port side of the ground is planned after the summer’s main action has wrapped up.

“New Zealand Cricket have identified that if we can get a fraction bigger capacity-wise, we'll be the biggest ground of our type,” he says.

“The obvious thing is we do have demand for it – it's not like we’re creating all this extra space and we don't have demand for games at the Oval.”

With that demand only expected to grow, the longer-term vision sees more major development, with the pavilion extending around to cover the existing groundsman’s shed, and the likelihood of more permanent seating.

“The pavilion was always designed to be extended,” says Kelvin. “The groundsman’s shed was designed to be the basement of an extended pavilion.

“And I think medium-to-long term, there’ll be some permanent seating - probably a nice balance between the grass embankment and the seating that some people prefer.”

The continued development of the Bay Oval doesn’t come for nothing, so with its pulling power well established, Kelvin sees their fundraising efforts moving up a gear.

“In the last 12-to-18 months, having had those six light towers there, people who didn’t always take us seriously - about what our vision was - certainly do now.”

He believes now may be a good time to explore the value of the ground’s naming rights, and also thinks it’s time for the Bay of Plenty Regional Council to step up to the plate.

“It’s the main cricket ground in the Bay of Plenty, never mind Tauranga,” he says. “It’s a regional facility.”

Their approaches to the regional council for funding in the past “have always been rebuffed very quickly, before we get too far.”

He believes the BOPRC is failing to measure up to comparable bodies like Taranaki and Wellington’s regional councils, which have invested big money in stadium facilities in their areas.

“With a city having so few amenities, and struggling with growth, I believe the regional council should be sticking its hand up for things like this.”      

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