Five years of triumph
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.
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.