Big sports events in doubt

JONATHAN MCKEOWN
Last updated 12:00 14/12/2013

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The Trafalgar Centre's closure has cast serious doubt over Nelson's ability to host major indoor sporting events.

Nelson-based organisers of March's international heavyweight title fight said hosting had been "totally compromised". The Mainland Tactix are now exploring "all our options" for an alternative venue for their trans-Tasman netball game in May.

Saxton Stadium is seemingly the only viable option for keeping these high-profile events in Nelson after the Trafalgar Centre was closed by the Nelson City Council yesterday because of quake risks.

However, if the purpose-built participation venue cannot meet the standards of compliance for spectator seating and broadcasting, the events will go ahead elsewhere.

The Fico Finance Nelson Giants basketball team are planning to relocate their home games to Saxton, with temporary spectator seating installed, and local sporting leagues will also be accommodated there, where possible.

The council has said it will work with groups that have booked the Trafalgar Centre to find alternative venues. But the one-off high-profile events are under serious threat given their specific requirements along with readily available alternatives and interest to host from other regions.

"There are quite strict standards around venue capability that we are contractually obligated to comply with," said Brigit Hearn, chief executive of Netball Mainland.

"There are issues around lighting, broadcasting capabilities and seat capacity."

The Mainland Tactix played their 2013 season opener against the Magic at the Trafalgar Centre and also hosted the West Coast Fever later in the season, with capacity crowds.

The Tactix were due to return to Nelson for one round 11 match in 2014, against the Central Pulse in May.

"It has certainly caused a scramble here and we are now working through all our options," said Ms Hearn.

"We are talking to the local council around whether there is an alternative option in Nelson. Our desire, if permitted, is to stay in Nelson but the options are limited."

The decision may also ultimately prove the undoing of efforts and commitments to bring a pay-per-view quality fight night to Nelson.

The Nelson Mail understands a full professional card, headlined by New Zealand heavyweight champion Joseph Parker and Brazilian heavyweight champion George Arias, was close to being finalised before the closure was announced.

"Right now we are fighting in the dark," said Barry Galbraith, the Nelson-based contact for fight promoters Duco Events. "It is going to be very difficult from here and has totally compromised whether the event will be held here."

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Mr Galbraith had spoken to Dean Lonergan of Duco Events, who he said remained "committed" to bringing the event to Nelson "provided we can find an equivalent venue".

Mr Galbraith said the central location of the Trafalgar Centre was a drawcard for hosting the "Battle of Trafalgar".

- The Nelson Mail

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