Turn on the lights Tauranga

The Bay Oval’s general manager Kelvin Jones. Photo: Tracy Hardy.

“Let there be light,” said the good book. And there was instant light.

Kelvin Jones is also “willing” there to be lights at the Bay Oval but so far no lights, not yet. The Bay Oval’s general manager wants the oval cricket ground in Mount Maunganui to glow like the ‘Cake Tin’ which is lit by 392 2000watt globes mounted in four lighting towers.

“With lights at Bay Oval there’s a huge opportunity to showcase sport and Tauranga to the world at a time the world is watching” says Kelvin.

The lights would cost about $2.6 million, a bit more than talked about in the past. “But our lights would be the very latest, the very best technology and better than anything else in the country.”

For a local comparison, the Bay Oval cricket pitch would be five times brighter than the neighbouring hockey field.

The Bay Oval Trust is making a pitch for finance under the Tauranga City Council’s Annual Plan. And the trust wants supporters to make submissions to the council to help press its case.

“After a wonderful summer’s cricket at the oval, we know there’s a lot of support out there. Climb on the council’s website and tell them the silent majority real want this facility,” begs Kelvin. “It need only be a few words like: ‘We want lights at Bay Oval’.”’

Studies have shown that day games in New Zealand are really only attractive to places like the West Indies and for short periods of time.

“But if we move the time zone a little, we would go all over the world. There would be an early morning audience in the United Kingdom. It would open up the subcontinent. It would be massive and make a huge difference.”

And what the trust had created at the Bay Oval so far is something of negligible cost capital-wise to the city and ratepayer. “The ratepayer has put about $500,000 towards the development. And it’s now probably a $5m facility.”

Then, says Kelvin, to put the cost of lights in perspective, it helps to make some comparisons. “Hagley Oval in Christchurch has cost ratepayers there $9m. And Wellington’s committed to a $23m upgrade of the Basin Reserve.”

The Civic Amenities Group says it’ll come to the party and underwrite. “It’s been fantastic and has told the council it’ll help if council does.” TECT has also been fantastic. “It’s already put $1.3 towards the development. It’ll help again but needs a few others to stump up.”

The public expectation is to watch big sports events in the evening, says Kelvin. “It’s a no-brainer. Everyone knows to attract a good crowd and a good TV audience it has to be night sport to accommodate people’s work and personal obligations.”

He suspects there are a lot of Aucklanders who are jealous of what Tauranga has at the Bay Oval. “And we have cut our cloth. It’s not the MCG but a facility that’s totally appropriate for the size of our city.” And, Kelvin says, it just needs lights for night games to set it off.