Thursday, November 12, 2009

Beach sports come to Hamilton

It’s not quite bringing the Mountain to Mohammed, but it is bringing Sand to the City!

Today, Hamilton’s newest sporting facility takes shape with 385 tonnes of special grade sand being dumped into the old Te Rapa Bowling Club courts in Ashurst Park, next to the Te Rapa Sportsdrome off Church Rd, Pukete.

The six-court (volleyball) venue will be the only public sand courts in Hamilton (there are single court facilities at two local schools for the use of school pupils), with the nearest other facilities being at Karapiro Domain, over 40 mins drive from Hamilton), or at Mt Maunganui and Auckland.

The Waikato Volleyball Association came up with the plan to convert the outdoor bowling facility to a new beach sports facility when the Bowling Club wound up several months ago, and has since been fundraising and organising for the new venture.

The Hamilton City Council voted in August to lease the bowling club to the Association, and over $10,000 has been received from the Perry Foundation, Southern Trust, Grassroots Trust and Youthtown Trust towards the approximate $30,000 establishment costs – $14,000 of the remainder is being contributed directly from Association coffers, while fundraising will continue for ‘bells & whistles’ that can’t be afforded initially.

While the facility is on public/Council land, the Association has not asked for, or received, any ratepayer or taxpayer funding for the project.

It has also been in discussions with the regional soccer and touch football organisations who are also keen to utilise the sand courts for their sports, while Pukete’s community house – which is based at the Sportsdrome will also be using it for their large kids’ after-school and holiday programmes.

Beach volleyball and beach soccer are fast-growing international sports, with beach volleyball being the only form of the sport in which New Zealand has so far achieved Olympic representation. A number of high school and University students in the Waikato are already in national beach volleyball squads, and the new facility is expected to advance their claims and bring new people into contention.

As well as the high level, social, school and other local beach volleyball leagues will be run, with Waikato-Bay of Plenty Football also looking at similar activities.

This is the second such bowling club conversion in New Zealand, with the other being in Mairangi Bay, North Shore, where the old ‘Women’s Bowling Club’ was converted with Council and national volleyball financial assistance in 2006.

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