Ian Purdon, Tennis Player & Citizen: Regional Sports Park

This is the gist of my submission to the council, warts, typos, and all. In the week since I submitted this via HDC’s online facility, I have worked out that Windsor Park is similar in area to the new Percival Road site, and a damn ‘site’ more convenient for most Hastings users. I have also been advised that the athletics track also used to be located within Windsor Park! How the town planners could have missed this amazing opportunity, along with its proximity to the new northern bypass, and Karamu High School, to kill 10 birds with one stone, is also beyond me! It is also too late now! So here goes..

a. hastings in particular has been very poorly served with public tennis courts, though there are some at flaxmere, so a public venue to redress this is a good idea, however ..
b. it would also be nice for hawkes bay to have a high quality venue to host regional tournaments, however ..

1. i have serious reservations about the creation and use of such a large venue in one initial build – surely you could build the first 8 only, dual mark 8 of the netball courts, and build the other 8 as another stage if and when they are proven / required. there is no previous history showing when 16 courts would be filled at any one time, either from our club, or other clubs – the population base, tennis playing community, and even a professional tournament, would not require so many courts (the latter would be better with a guaranteed / weather independent indoor court!) whilst it would be very nice to run interclub competitions at the same venue ie saturday morning juniors, or the senior pre-season friday night mens 2-man competion, why would they move from a ‘free and friendly’ club environment, to the austere, non-hosted (and possibly expensive) regional venue

2. i cannot see these courts being filled on a regular basis without the focus of a club, and its associated host of volunteers – tennis hb is in the process of merging with the waikato-bays association, and i personally do not foresee the manpower or resource to create the continual buzz required, especially from scratch. business house competitions are one possibility, however that again requires a coordinator, and would be at the expense of existing clubs.

3. and what of the possible impact that this facility will have on existing clubs! to my knowledge, whilst my club has been proactive in discussing a possible merger or relocation to the RSP, an option which has now closed, there has been no effort by kelt to discuss the RSP’s impact on any of the clubs in the region ie greendale, hastings, havelock north, and clive. i am concerned that this lack of consultation has not been restricted to our code, and that perhaps there is not as much buy-in to this mega-facility has has been touted? or potentially, tennis is a little different in structure to netball, and this aspect has at least not been fully considered?

4. income generation may not be as has been claimed either. i have not seen the figures myself, but figures being bandied about suggest a budgetted first full year (2012/13) tennis income of at least $81,600. to my knowledge, tennis hawkes bay only pays between $3-9k of rental for the onekawa courts for regional inter-provincial, and residential tournaments. this is a significant shortfall! in addition, how much of this ‘planned’ additional activity will be to the detriment of local club’s activities?

5. court surface – this is another example of a distinct lack of consultation. tennis is one of the few codes where there is a choice of surface, and many different opinions! surely this aspect is worthy of wider input. Kelt Capital have repeatedly asserted that they will choose the surface, and that there will be only one surface (and yet Sam Kelt is on recent public record as saying that he will implement the wishes of the community – this is at odds with our first-hand experience to date)! there are many examples of similar complexes built around the country whose experiences could be brought to bear, some of whom have been forced to lay different surfaces to meet different objectives. there are a great many top-level players and administrators that would like to contribute to this discussion. discussions with the local tennis association do not constitute full consultation, and officialdom taken at one point in time, could indeed mis-represent the combined experience and wishes of the tennis playing community, especially those outside of a club environment (veterans for instance), who may indeed be one of the target markets! the surface must cater for both young and old players if it is to fit the RSP’s objective of full inclusivity, and lack of consultation poses risks to its long-term success. the latest gossip has a european clay surface being proposed – i would be one of very few hawkes bay players with experience on clay, and whilst it has some appeal, surely this is a risk that deserves wider discussion (and clay is definitely not an all-weather surface, and nor is it maintenance-free!)
– there is also the issue of re-laying artificial court surfaces – their usual lifetime is 10-15 years only! has this huge depreciation cost, some $20k per court, been factored into the long term costings?
– there still seems to be an emphasis of elitism / high performance that the Kelt sponsors are carrying through from their other (worthy) ventures, which may roll into the selection of court surface – the RSP is supposed to be for the entire community!

6. the RSP proposal is very nice and central (and certainly to be commended and in good company amongst the more recent centralisation/altruistic projects – the airport, pettigrew green arena, hospital, etc), however it is still an additional 3-5 km away from the centre of hastings. if we are to expect our school-age children, and the public to participate, this additional distance may be significant (perhaps the council can consider fast cycle-ways through the various (new) subdivisisions, to improve access, especially given that petrol costs are likely to preclude a good many of the target participants from actually getting to the venue ie straight after work (if the venue is to be used regularly and to capacity).

7. on the “pay-per-play” issue, when did the long-term planning (other than cycling and athletics which definitely require stadiums), and SPARC etc, suddenly decide to diverge from the voluntary club-based culture on which sport in NZ has traditionally created and based its extraordinary successess on? again, i would have hoped to have seen every affected club consulted and any potential impact reported upon. where is the economic and academic research? there is indeed research that suggests NZ and australia have relied on the (rural) regions for more than their per-capita share of their nation’s sporting prowess, and that this is a direct result of the high-level of interaction at all competitive levels between senior/adult players, and talented youngsters due to smaller clubs and competitions requiring all-hands-to-the-pump, with resulting mixing of ages within the same teams (and not least because it endows a more balanced “sporting” and voluntary ethic!) a move to a centralised and more urban/commercial model may be counter-productive, and this approach may spell the end of the volunteer / club ethic, which counter-intuitively could cost the region more in explicit expenditure, to provide the same level of services. i have also this week received communication from tennis new zealand that states that their intention is to see more of the community’s tennis players actually join clubs – this is peculiarly at odds with our own province’s administrators who have come out publicly in support of an austere ‘pay per play’ model! this public persona may simply be moral support in order to gain the fantastic facilities promised, because in my view, it is also at odds with their role of promoting the very clubs that fund and votes within this association. HDC may be better off scaling back the RSP, and better supporting the existing club structures embedded within the geographically closer community? at the very least, this should have been investigated.

8. as a process, i have been deeply concerned that the council has completely abdicated pretty much all responsibility for sporting code inclusion, design, management, and public forums, etc to Kelt as project manager. the first public meeting was this week (clashed with a prior engagement unfortunately) there was never much opportunity for the public to participate in the discussion which saw the slower 10-year plan dissolve into the fast-tracked Kelt proposal, and whilst most people are impressed by the scope and grand nature of the current proposal, it may yet prove too grandiose and quick for the available resources. surely a scaled back version would prove its viability first – commendable foresight has secured the land, but it needn’t be filled immediately! perhaps there are codes and sports that will develop over the ensuing decade that might, in hindsight, be better provided for at this venue (swimming and canoe polo spring to mind, though i would suggest that water sports might be better focussed at windsor park (perhaps near the skate-park)? our community is due for a significant shake-up in terms of size, cost of living, travel costs, climate change impacts, etc, and scope should be left within the RSP to pick up on those changes over the ensuing decades rather than close the door by filling up the available space immediately.

in summary, i would like to see a little more discussion, public participation in all the various decisions, perhaps some experience with wind flows, traffic access, etc through at least a successful athletics season or two, before the second major stage. perhaps the football grounds, and temporary cycle criterium, and possibly trialling an outdoor/concrete velodrome aka palmerston north (we have the weather where they don’t!), could happen immediately, and from these successes could spring the final successful grand plan? we are not a rich society dollar-wise, but we are blessed with great weather, and a great community – a bit more inclusiveness, and a bit less haste, and caution with our money, would go down well! good luck!

yours faithfully
ian purdon

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4 Comments

  1. Below you will see the letter of support that has been provided by Tennis New Zealand for the Regional Sport Park at Percival Rd, and in particular, tennis being embraced by the project.

    Further to this, I would make reference to a submission by tennis enthusiast Ian Purdon.

    Mr Purdon invites healthy discussion about this topic, which should be encouraged. The overriding factor however, is that this is an amazing opportunity for tennis that may not come along again for a very long time. This being the case, I would encourage all tennis and sport enthusiasts, to note all of the positives in the submission by Mr Purdon and show their support for the project. (egs. “a public venue to redress this is a good idea”, “It would also be nice for Hawke’s Bay to have a high quality venue……”)

    It is the view of Tennis New Zealand that a world class facility such as this, with 16 courts and great amenities, will be an asset for the sport that will deliver benefits over many years. It is also the view that a world class facility such as this will complement club tennis, rather than compete with it. More people being exposed to positive tennis experiences will lift the profile of the sport and lead to greater club activity. The ability to host national and even international events will be another huge advantage to tennis in the area. Current court shortages during ‘peak’ times will be overcome.

    There are many examples in New Zealand and overseas where the establishment of ‘headquarter’ style tennis centres has had a neutral or positive impact on club tennis. These include, but are not limited to Melbourne Park (Rod Laver Arena), Merton Rd (Auckland), Homebush Olympic Tennis Venue (Sydney), Wilding Park (Christchurch), State Tennis Centre (Perth) and the Renouf Centre (Wellington). Interestingly, as tennis in New Zealand restructures, the things that are being most preserved are those major facilities. They are so highly valued by the members of the respective associations, the clubs, that they are holding them in trust type situations, rather than handing their ownership over to the new region.

    This rare opportunity for tennis should be positively embraced. Tennis New Zealand encourages you to become excited by the prospect of a world class tennis facility in your region.

    Steve Walker

    CEO

    Tennis NZ

    23 May 2008

    Regional Sports Park Submissions

    Hastings District Council

    Private Bag 9002

    Hastings 4122

    Tennis NZ whole heartedly support the proposed regional sports park project. Creating a multi-sport multi-use facility with benefits regionally and nationally is seen as visionary, and the Hastings District Council should be applauded for moving the project forward.

    Tennis New Zealand is delighted to write in support, and in particular, for tennis being part of the project.

    Tennis is already a successful sport in the Hawke’s Bay region and the successful Hawke’s Bay Tennis Association is currently in the process of becoming part of one of our new tennis regions, Waikato-Bays.

    Tennis in New Zealand is undergoing a major re-vitalisation at the moment, with the total support of SPARC, and growth and development of the sport, nationwide, is expected.

    Facilities such as this are an exciting component of the plan to attract more people to the sport of tennis and to provide them with quality experiences that will retain them as tennis players for life.

    We would expect to be able to host major national and even international events at the new facility over many years to come, given the quality of the proposed facilities, the climate, access by road and air, and the proven ability of the Hawke’s Bay tennis community to deliver tennis successfully.

    Thank you for the opportunity to become involved in the project and all the best with the remainder of the process.

    Yours sincerely

    Steve Walker

    CEO

    Tennis NZ

  2. A few days ago, we posted a Guest Buzzmaker by a citizen who is also active in local club tennis. He has serious reservations about the sports park.

    Today, BayBuzz was enormously flattered to see that the national tennis officialdom in Auckland is spontaneously and assiduously reading our modest teeny local blog. They posted a rejoinder (above) to our Buzzmaker

    WOW, we thought. We’ve really made the big time. Top brass in Auckland are reading BayBuzz. No doubt everyone in the Beehive too. Probably even the Vatican.

    Yeah right!

    Far more likely: Lawrence or Sam didn’t like what our local tennis player had to say … someone called up the national honchos (straight past the regional tennis leadership to the very top … WOW again), and asked for a big serve. Ace our local nuisance clubbie.

    What Lawrence and Sam don’t get, is that this is the whole problem with their so-called consultation process. Over and over, there seems to be a mismatch between what the top brass in Auckland (or wherever) have to say, assuming it’s reported accurately, and the views of volunteer sports enthusiasts here on the ground.

    The CEO of Tennis NZ helpfully tells us how it works in big cities like Auckland, Sydney, Melbourne, Wellington and Christchurch with huge pools of tennis players. How relevant is that?

    Lawrence and Kelt Capital talk to Auckland and national sports code chiefs (whose job it is to salivate over new facilities) … and we talk to locals.

    Who would you like to tell you how to spend your ratepayer dollars on sport? Sports bureaucrats in Auckland? Or committed volunteers here in Hawke’s Bay?

    For BayBuzz, it’s an easy call. Go with the locals.

    Tom

  3. To: Steve Walker CEO Tennis NZ

    Despite sports, like tennis, being run by locals for locals [sometimes without much useful help from their national bodies and their capitation fee's -so someone like you can have a job.] Big brothers [like Laurence,Sam and now Steve ] tell the very same locals, the foundation without which nothing would work, 'they know best!!!. History tells us that these type of people make huge 'cock-ups" and then blame someone else. It would seem Sam is going for the record – the RSP looks like breaking all previous records that will make Splash planet look like a duck pond. someone is obviously playing with flat balls !

    Stick to your ground Ian !

  4. I live in Napier and do not play tennis; my interpretation of Steve Walkers motivational doublespeak – You guys in Hawkes Bay pay for the RSP and i will bang the drum" – or should that be (bang my gums)

    If the best we can hope for is this Quote – tennis centres has had a neutral or positive impact on club tennis – unQuote, then why would we bother. Spend all that money for a RSP so we can get a neutral impact on Club Tennis – Yeah Right.

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