Spark and Auckland Council break ground on the first of ‘The Boroughs’

Last year, Spark announced it was teaming up with Kiwi NBA player Steven Adams on a project dubbed ‘The Boroughs’ which would see it partner up with Auckland City Council to open five high-tech basketball courts. And today Spark and the Ōtara-Papatoetoe local board started construction on the first court at Otamariki Park in South Auckland.

The five courts will be spread across North, East, West, South and Central Auckland and each will be paired with a famous sister court in the US, with Otamariki Park’s sister court being Rucker Park, the original home of pick-up-ball in the US, according to a Spark release. The new courts will also be kitted out with new interactive technology.

The others will be:

  • The Cage, Manhattan – sister court to Victoria Park in Central Auckland 
  • Downtown Courts, OKC – sister court to Avondale Central Reserve in West Auckland
  • The Hole, Brooklyn – sister court to Pt England Reserve in East Auckland
  • Venice Beach, LA – sister court to Hooton Reserve in the North Shore

The move is a bid to get Spark connected with young Aucklanders, a group it struggled to reach in the Telecom days.

Spark chief executive for home, mobile and business Chris Quin says ‘The Boroughs’ is a major project for Spark and has been a huge talking point around Auckland since it was announced.

“With construction now underway on the first court, ‘Spark Boroughs’ is really starting to come to life for the community – and we can’t wait to see locals in South Auckland out on the court showing us what they can do, developing their skills and making their community proud.”

Quin says the project will give people the opportunity express themselves, to get behind their borough and to take pride in their community – just as streetball has done in the US.

He is already expecting big things from the South Auckland Borough at Otamariki Park.

“Basketball’s profile and popularity is really on the rise in this area so we know the local community in South Auckland will represent their borough in a big way.

Each court will be a Spark Wifi hotspot. Interactive technology will also be incorporated into each of the courts, which is looking to be a world first. It is not entirely clear what this technology is at present but it will most likely be for capturing game play to share through social media.

Full control off the courts will be given to the communities they reside in. And local players will be able to organise games and tournaments as they wish.

Spark, along with its agencies Dynamo, Touchcast and Sherson Willis, has been working closely with Auckland Council and local boards for close to two years on this project.

Otara-Papatoetoe local board chair Efeso Collins says the board’s partnership with Spark has taken its plans for the basketball court to a whole new level.

“Our Local Board Plan is focused on providing more parks and facilities that not only meet local needs but also encourage active and healthy lifestyles,” says Collins, “This is a unique resource for Otara and will put a smile on many faces so it’s great to see construction starting. Our young people are really excited to get out on the court and bust their moves. The project shows how local boards can achieve extraordinary initiatives with constructive business and community relationships. At the end of the day, we both share the same vision of getting our young people engaged, enthusiastic, and fostering their talents.”

Kenny McFadden, Steven Adams’ long-time manager and mentor, says he is excited to bring streetball to the local community and can see it benefiting player development.

“Streetball tends to bring the community together. Sport as a whole is a vehicle for socialising and making new friends, and this project will give people of all ages, boys and girls – the opportunity to go out there and develop their skills, and enjoy sport for free,” he says “As a basketball talent scout and coach, I can see the younger age group really benefitting. They can play with their own age group and the seasoned ballers, and learn from them and develop their talent at a young age. It’s a great concept.”

When asked what the project meant to him, Steven Adams answered by saying: “It’s about giving back to the community, getting kids off the street and in to basketball”.

According to a release Spark expects the court at Otamariki Park to be completed in the coming months and is planning to roll out the remaining courts across Auckland before the end of this year.

Spark is pushing the project out through a dedicated website as well as an InstagramFacebook and Twitter. More video content has also been added to the existing teasers, which had no paid media support. 

The telco canned its All Blacks sponsorship in 2013 in favour of moving its money into areas where there was a bit more clear air. And at the time Kellie Nathan, who’s now at Pumpkin Patch, said: “For Telecom, the All Blacks sponsorship didn’t work. We didn’t feature strongly enough in our tracking as an All Blacks sponsor to get the attribution we needed to justify the investment. There are so many others involved who have done a lot of work to build up a presence. So rather than be one of many, we said ‘let’s own something and develop it from the grassroots up’.”

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