Preparations are underway for the Jetsprints’ return to Baypark Stadium over Anniversary Weekend, with the first piece of turf dug up this morning ahead of the powerboat spectacular.
Digging will continue over the next week as the watercourse track takes shape, before V8 powered jetsprints boats take to the high-speed stage before what organisers hope will be a capacity crowd.
About 300 truckloads of stadium soil will be removed over the next seven days before the narrow, shallow ditch is filled with over 2000m3 of water.
Jetsprint NZ officials laid out the circuit over the weekend, with a longer track and faster curves than last year’s inaugural contest signalling a narrow and tight challenge for drivers.
The Baypark showcase remains the world’s only jetsprint stadium event, with the venue the preferred option for the 2016 world championships which are being hosted in New Zealand.
And in response to the popularity of last year’s tournament, the 2015 version takes place over two days on January 24/25 to allow visiting teams from Australia, Canada and the US to take part.
Jetsprint world number two Phonsy Mullan is bringing his own superboat from Australia, and will be up against current world champion and New Zealander Peter Caughey.
“Pretty much anybody whose anybody in the sport is coming,” says Pip Minnell, event director for Jetsprint BOP.
“They saw it last year, and it is still the only stadium Jetsprint racing event in the world.
“A lot of the overseas competitors are coming as spectators at the event as well. This is ahead of next year’s 2016 world champs. I think they are also coming to check out the preferred venue.”
This year’s track is bigger than last time out, taking up more of the stadium’s grassed area. And according to Jetsprint BOP spokesman Matt Minnell, the boats will be going faster.
“They will be going faster, probably about the same coming off I would say,” says Matt.
“Technically it’s not as narrow, they shouldn’t be coming off as often.”
High powered jet boats with crews of two race individually against the clock through a twisting series of channels in less than a metre of water, providing fast-paced action for spectators.
A concrete ramp is a unique addition to the stadium, which may make Baypark the only sports stadium on the planet to boast a permanent concrete boat ramp behind the try line. But it will be buried for most of the time.
Bay Venues Ltd commercial director Ervin McSweeney says the $30-40,000 investment will pay off over the six years or so that Jetsprints events are expected to be held at the stadium
“It’s a significant investment in the facility so we can provide this event on an ongoing basis,” says Ervin.
“We’ve got an agreement where we are going to try and host this event for at least the next couple of years after this, and to get a good area where the boats can launch and not suck too much debris up into their motors is quite important to them.
“Part of our role is to provide a facility in the best possible way that we can. That’s one of the things that they asked for and we agreed to do. That will make the whole launching process a lot better.
“It’s quite a big area of concrete. Over six or seven years it’s not such a big cost when you consider the scale of the event.”
Bay Venues Ltd was “over the moon” at the 15,000-plus crowd that paid to watch last year’s event, and it wants to keep Baypark Stadium as a Jetsprints venue as the 2016 World Championships hones into view.
“When that (success) happens you have to look at what’s going to make the event better, what’s going to make the venue better and what’s going to encourage the participants to come back,” says Ervin.
“We are hoping this year provides a really good precursor. Infrastructure that can host an event on a world scale is and investment for the city as well if we bring a major event of a world scale here.”