It’s not everyday that a national sporting tournament is played out in the centre of a shopping mall. However, shoppers at Bayfair Shopping Centre in Mount Maunganui found themselves centre court during August 2009 when a massive glass court was erected in the mall to host the A1 Homes NZ Women’s Open. Around 18,000 spectators descended on the mall to witness a piece of the fast-paced action.
Having seen examples of the glass courts erected overseas, Bayfair and Bay of Plenty Sport decided it would be a great way to bring the sport to the masses, staging the event in the centre of the mall in full public view – from all corners!
It was also the first time in 13 years a NZ Women’s Open tournament had been played in New Zealand, another great story.
The AC team focused on profiling Bayfair’s innovative approach – a NZ first – hosting the tournament in the centre as well as celebrating this milestone event with the local community and high-profile Tauranga personalities.
What better way to commemorate this event than with the darling of New Zealand squash and one of our most successful international female squash players of all time – Dame Susan Devoy! Dame Susan was invited to play a match against the Bay of Plenty’s rookie MP Simon Bridges – a challenge which she accepted without reservation.
This event captured the attention of the public, attracting around 100 onlookers and media keen to see their local MP take on the sporting legend. Despite a considerable absence from the court and retirement from professional squash, Dame Susan showed Simon a thing or two about the game. Needless to say, Simon was an excellent sport!
The event made national TV, when Breakfast took the opportunity to show coverage of the match on the politician’s regular young gun segment that week. The Breakfast hosts had quite a chuckle, at Simon’s expense, about his technique and bravado in challenging such a sporting great.
The NZ Herald, Bay of Plenty Times, Sunlive and Classic Hits Tauranga also covered the event, relishing the opportunity to see their local MP put himself up for the challenge.
The rather unique setting for the national squash tournament was the focus of a piece on prime-time current affairs show Campbell Live. The article titled ‘Squash open gives new meaning to window shopping,’ looked at the angle of reinvigorating public interest in the sport and the innovative approach of taking it to the people in a glass court in the centre Bayfair. Journalist Emma Keeling described the court as ‘oasis for sport’s lovers in a desert of shopping’