If there’s one person you need to talk to about what makes Trustpower Baypark Arena tick, that person is probably Bay Venues commercial manager Ervin McSweeney. Ervin has been commercial manager of the facility for seven years. Before that he was CEO of Baypark’s former council operator, Tauranga City Venues Ltd
Ervin explained to me the earlier history of what he affectionately terms the ‘long journey’, when the old Baypark area was largely taken over for residential housing and Baypark raceway and stockcar track was replaced by the new stockcar track, ultimately resulting in the Baypark we see today.
In 2005 the decision was made to build what is now Trustpower Baypark Arena. Construction commenced in February 2010 and the building opened a year and a half later.
Hawkins Construction was the lead contractor for that project.
According to McSweeney, “the Arena is in superb condition, particularly considering the number of people who have used it over the last 10 years.”
“It really has proved to be a fantastic facility,” he says with a certain degree of pride.
Is there need for expansion? McSweeney is quite objective: “The numbers say it all – the sheer volume of users is evidence of the demand. That demand has clearly been identified and continues to grow and grow.”
He points out the venue has also provided a lot of opportunities for the community to be involved in numerous ways.
He estimates that in early July 2021 the Arena welcomed its 4 millionth user – not an insignificant number by any standards.
It’s been a fantastic experience to be so closely involved. – Ervin McSweeny
Operationally, a facility such as Trustpower Baypark Arena, with users numbering in the millions over a few short years, requires a skilled team of personnel; The Arena activities are broadly divided into two categories: the community sports and events, and the business activities. Servicing these broad categories is a catering team, a production team, venue and event operations staff, and the set-up and take-down staff who make the venue presentable. At any one time there can be 50-60 people working directly on an event – where there are very big events on, this number can be far bigger.
“It’s one thing having some walls and a roof, but it’s what happens inside that counts”
“Big events give us the opportunity to ultimately offer employment to large numbers of people, if not directly by us, then certainly enabled by our provision of the facilities – consider the labour force required to serve a meal for 600 people at an event for example, or at the other end of the scale, the numerous referees and support people who are needed to organise and officiate at community sports events held regularly at the arena.”
“But it is far more than a building. It’s one thing having some walls and a roof, but it’s what happens inside that counts.”
“I think that’s where the Arena really has provided such a fantastic facility for the community to enjoy,” says McSweeney.
The fact that the usage numbers have grown as dramatically as they have in recent years is proof of the demand.
“From a commercial business perspective, our facilities are leading edge. Businesses often need a turnkey solution for their business events, from training days, client and supplier functions or exhibitions to conferences and shareholder meetings – we have it all covered. We have a support team that really does it well with provision for business requirements of all types,” he says
“It’s just a great experience for a lot of people”
The Trustpower Baypark Arena now regularly hosts music and entertainment events that, until the arena was built, would never have come to the region.
In particular McSweeney points to the Beachboys concert, the Davis Cup tennis tie and international basketball and netball games as absolute personal highlights for him.
“From ‘Tumble Time’ for the tots, to pickle ball played by seniors – it’s just a great experience for a lot of people,” he says.
As for suggestions that extensions to the arena may come to fruition sooner rather than later, McSweeney is hopeful: “The work is being done on looking at the city’s needs, demand has been identified, so we look forward to seeing developments.”
His verdict so-far: “What a good investment it was; A very good decision was made by Council all those years ago.”
Considering it has only been 10 years, to have built and grown a facility that is now unequivocally regarded as a success and a key foundation for the community really is remarkable.