The changing face of the Bay Oval

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian
www.sunlive.co.nz

Even the most ardent Bay of Plenty cricket fans would have struggled to imagine the Bay Oval of today, when the first sod was turned on the first day of March in 2005.

The catalyst for the new ground was New Zealand Cricket's decision to take the summer holiday one-day matches away from the wicket block in front of the now demolished Mount cricket club pavilion, in 2002.

The reason cited at the time was a sub-standard pitch.  

A group of passionate Western Bay of Plenty cricket followers believed the time was right to develop an international standard ground in the middle of Mount Maunganui.

From that belief, the Bay Oval Trust - which is an offshoot of Bay of Plenty Cricket - began planning in earnest. 

The ground construction was based upon an English Village Green feel with a grass embankment encompassing the playing field.

There were no visions of grandeur, with a crowd capacity of around 10,000 cricket fans. 

The grass banks were put in place and the ground left fallow during the winter of 2005.

Wicket block preparation, growing grass on the outfield and the required irrigation system took place during 2006. 

Two years almost to the day since the Bay Oval construction began, a local B Grade match tested out the new pitch for the first time.

The ability of the Bay Oval to produce big scores didn't take long to surface, with current Black Caps captain Kane Williamson blasting 131 runs for Bay of Plenty Under 19 against Waikato Valley on the 21 March 2007. 

Wicket block development continued, with the first significant game being a State League T20 between the Northern Spirit and the Canterbury Magicians taking place during December 2007. 

The appointment of Jared Carter as the Bay Oval Turf Manager in the winter of 2010, established the Mount grounds credentials, with Carter being regarded as in the top level of cricket ground curators in the country. 

January 2014 saw the Bay Oval host a number of games in the ICC CWCQ14 (Cricket World Cup Qualifiers 2014).

The playoff for seventh place between Canada and The Netherlands, who both held ICC ODI status, resulted in the Bay Oval receiving temporary ODI status for the game. 

Later that year, the Mount Maunganui ground became the countries newest international cricket venue, when the Black Caps squared off with South Africa in ODI action.

In seven short years, the Blake Park ground had come from a wilderness to having Western Bay home-grown hero Trent Boult steaming in taking wickets. 

A custom-made unique pavilion was unveiled in January 2014, with the recent instillation of lights for day-night cricket, changing the Mount Maunganui skyline forever. 

A significant milestone will be celebrated during the 2016/17 Festival of Cricket at the Bay Oval, with the 100th International/Major Association game being played on what many local cricket fans believe is the best cricket ground in New Zealand.

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