Steamers success heightens stadium demand

Temporary grandstands at Tauranga Domain is not an ideal option says the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union. Photo: Chris James.

It’s one of those moments to decide which side of history you want to be on. It’s not a question of if, but when, the city gets a sports stadium, says Tauranga City Councillor Max Mason.

“I think a stadium is one of those things that’s not going to go away.  Just because the council says no once, it absolutely doesn’t go away. It will take a small group of people really pushing something hard and gathering momentum over time and it will eventually happen.”

With the Bay of Plenty Steamers currently active in the Mitre 10 Cup, the Tauranga Domain has been transformed into something bearing some resemblance to a rugby stadium, but the large temporary scaffolding grandstand structure is testament to the lengths rugby, our national sport, has to go to in order to stage a match here.

The Steamers are based in Tauranga, and though the union’s area includes Rotorua and they are committed to sharing matches between the two centres, a suitable venue for the team to perform for fans in their largest market is critical. And yet the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union faces a logistical nightmare every year to create one, says chief executive Mike Rogers.

“I don’t think it’s an ideal option. Tauranga Domain as a venue just to bring it up to Mitre 10 Cup standard comes with a lot of challenges,” says Mike.

“But we do it because we think it is the right thing for the city. We know when we talk to the community they really do enjoy the atmosphere at the Tauranga Domain for our games. And so for us, it’s an investment in the right space.”

But for the Chiefs it’s a different story. While a temporary stadium at the domain may suffice for the Steamers, it doesn’t cut it for the Super Rugby franchise.

“I know that they’d love to have games in Tauranga. But the challenge again comes back to the facilities and infrastructure that we currently don’t provide,” says Mike.

It’s clear progress will only be made in the development of a sports and events facility in the city when key movers and shakers in the community do get talking, but don’t expect Tauranga City Council to lead the conversation, says Mayor Greg Brownless.