Five years of tri­umph

Kapi-Mana News - - FEATURE - By AN­DREA O’NEIL

You can tell Te Rau­paraha Arena has won Porirua’s heart by the way lo­cals treat it as their own.

Chil­dren don’t bounce balls off the walls, there is very lit­tle graf­fiti and a sports coach at a swanky awards din­ner was once told off for wear­ing high heels on the court.

‘‘They treat it as their place,’’ arena busi­ness man­ager He­len Brookes said.

The sta­dium and events cen­tre cel­e­brates its fifth an­niver­sary this week. Af­ter at­tract­ing mas­sive op­po­si­tion while be­ing built, the arena’s staff are start­ing to re­lax into its suc­cess.

Five years ago, Ms Brookes would never have al­lowed a paint­ball tour­na­ment in the arena, fear­ing paint splat­ters and pub­lic crit­i­cism. In Au­gust, the paint­ballers were let in.

‘‘ We found paint­balls for months af­ter­wards, but they didn’t mark the sta­dium,’’ Ms Brookes said.

‘‘ We’re dis­cov­er­ing what the sta­dium is ca­pa­ble of.’’

Mem­o­rable events in the past five years in­clude a packed Ge­orge ‘ Fiji’ Veikoso con­cert, Rugby World Cup train­ing matches, Whi­tireia grad­u­a­tions, Je­ho­vah’s Wit­ness con­ven­tions, and an an­nual Christ­mas party for spe­cial needs chil­dren.

‘‘Peo­ple have started to see the sort of events com­ing here that Porirua never had be­fore,’’ Ms Brookes said.

A par­tic­u­larly spe­cial mem­ory for Ms Brookes was the Hoops for Christchurch celebrity bas­ket­ball game, which raised $28,000 in Can­ter­bury earth­quake aid. A team was pulled to­gether just five days af­ter the quake, with play­ers vol­un­teer­ing from the Pulse, Saints, Phoenix and Hur­ri­canes.

‘‘It was an amaz­ing night. The at­mos­phere was in­cred­i­ble,’’ Ms Brookes said.

Set­ting up events some­times re­quires the arena’s 10 staff to work till 2am.

Staff loy­alty is high: most have worked for the arena from the be­gin­ning. Ms Brookes sin­gles out spe­cial needs main­te­nance man Wil­son Stock for his ded­i­ca­tion: lit­ter and spills are cleared al­most be­fore they hit the floor, she said.

One of the big­gest coups the arena pulled off was sign­ing the Pulse net­ball team in 2011, man­ager Wil­lie Tau­rima said.

‘‘The Pulse are a great ad­vert for us. Their play­ers love this place,’’ he said. ‘‘It gives us in­ter­na­tional pro­file in one of the most pop­u­lar sports in New Zealand.’’

Care­ful thought was put into de­sign and lo­ca­tion of the arena so it could cater for both sports and events, Mr Tau­rima said.

Ath­letes use the Aquatic Cen­tre for re­cov­ery, and hav­ing two courts sep­a­rated by a wide hall­way means a rau­cous sports game can be played at the same time as a lec­ture or din­ner.

Mr Tau­rima praises for­mer mayor Jenny Brash for sup­port­ing the arena when half her coun­cil didn’t, coun­cil man­ager Gary Simp­son for driv­ing the project, and for­mer coun­cil man­ager Darcy Simp­son for fill­ing the arena with art.

In ret­ro­spect, Mr Tau­rima would have changed two things: he would have in­creased the seat­ing from 2100 to 3000, and would not have built a noisy gym right above his of­fice.

Home game: The Pulse’s Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit and Ju­lianna Naoupu from the Tac­tix face off in June.

Head for heights: Marc Calkin of the Firebirds takes on Cory Jane of the Hur­ri­canes dur­ing the Hoops for Christchurch char­ity bas­ket­ball game.

Photo: AN­DREA O’NEIL

Te Rau­paraha team: Arena staff, from left: He­len Brookes, Wil­lie Tau­rima, Shan­non Fu­gle, Wil­son Stock, Jamie De­vitt, Doug Ser­gent, Dayn Pau’u (ob­scured), Benna Se­veali’i-Si­olo and Manu Dal­ley.

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